A Little Time for a lot of Freedom

There is a local election on Tuesday, November 5th. I’m not hopeful that turnout will be anything impressive, because it never is in local election years. View my post on that here: Who is Going to Fix the Potholes?

Because I follow news and elections closely, I can afford to be lax about looking up info to prepare myself for the election.  I didn’t sit down to do it until this weekend.  I needed to look up my registration, view my ballot, and look up info on the candidates.  This way, I will be an informed member of the electorate.  It sounds fancy, but it just means I won’t go into a voting booth blind.  I will do my research and know who is running, and who I want representing me.

First, I looked up my registration.  It took 4 minutes and 14 seconds.  I went to the Monroe County Board of Elections website.  I did that, because it’s my local county’s Board of Elections. They have my ballot, and they will tally my vote.  That way, I’m getting my information right from the source.

Now I’ve got my polling place and what number districts I’m in, for county legislature, state legislature, Congressional districts. What’s more, they have the option for me to view my ballot.  This lets me see what it will look like, when I vote on Tuesday. It shows me all the races, what candidates are on what party lines, and any propositions on the ballot.

I then grabbed all that info and put it in a spreadsheet.  That looks like this:

I’m not expecting everyone to do this, but if you do, it can help to really consider your options.  The ballot gave me the first 3 columns of info.  It took me about 19 minutes to do it. The reason I did this, is for the 4th column. I wanted to look up each candidate’s website or social media page, so I could learn a bit about their platform.  To do that, I went to the Monroe County Democratic Committee website and the Monroe County Republican Committee website.  They will have links to any candidate that they have endorsed. Any on a 3rd party line, and not endorse by either of those two parties, I googled.

Doing that took me 16 minutes.  So, from start to finish, I spent 40 minutes. That leaves me 20 minutes to look at each candidate’s site for a minute or so and see if they are for me.

Come Tuesday, people will be elected to those offices. If turnout is typical of a local election year, about 30% of registered voters will decide those races.  That means about 15%-20% of the population will show up to decide who represents 100% of us. That’s just not enough.  Elected officials will not have any incentive to work in the people’s interest, if the people aren’t even paying attention.

I don’t expect everyone to make spreadsheets, but we owe it to ourselves to know who wants to represent us. Take the 5 minutes to look up your registration, and grab your ballot.  Then you can look up the candidates, and know who the best choice is.  Abstaining means allowing your last choice to end up in power.

We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.
~ Elie Wiesel

As a country, we need to all make sure we don’t take our vote for granted. It is most certainly under attack.

 

Poll This

We need to get polls out of politics.

Watching the 1st Democratic debates last night, NBC had to take commercial breaks, and during some of them, an analyst was discussing polls during the 2016 election, and where these primary candidates are now, and what the polls need to look like for them to win.  It’s such a horrible time suck, that they were spending these precious minutes going over popularity as the most important factor of their candidacy, right in the middle of this debate, which I felt was full of so much substance.

Many people discussed the winners and losers of the first night, and I came away with such a different take.  Yes, Julian Castro got to show how excellent of a candidate he is, and how the press has completely ignored this heavy weight.  The rest of the candidates each had their highs and lows, but I only mean that in that it was a big stage and it was a big challenge to walk away from that 2 hours of debating back and forth with the most memorable sound bites and wording of their promises to lead.

But in point of fact, Julian Castro has been largely ignored in the polls. On the debate stage, we all got to hear how he communicated his ideas, his experience, and his intelligence.  Not everyone can do that.  Many brilliant people are horrible communicators.  Many people, who lack intelligence and morals, are somehow effective at selling what they want people to buy.

But now, talking heads are back to polling.  The candidates will do it to. They have to. If they didn’t do polling and pay attention to polls, they would be walking a tight rope, without looking.  I just envision an election cycle, where there is no polling.  I detest polling.

It’s not just that they generally only pull likely voters. It’s that we’re supposed to care who is leading in popularity, which is not always the best indication of who it has the best ideas, or who will be most effective at implementing their vision. Someone may be a lofty orator, and be capable of energizing a crowd, with an impassioned speech. That doesn’t mean they can get bipartisan support, or effectively pass the legislation that will put their plans into effect. If people were left just evaluating the qualities, their rhetoric, their resume of service, and they’re voting record if there is any, we might end up with better public servants. We shouldn’t treat our civic process like a popularity contest.

It is the way we make the process of our democracy, where we elect public servants, a game of politics and who is trending.  That’s what’s infested our government and it has caused rot in our institutions. It’s allowed disingenuous people rise to the top of a crowd, when they would be at the bottom, based on merit.

In suggesting that politics should have a place in the process of public service, is to suggest that we should make sport out of representing the people and living up to the promise we have yet to fulfill, as the leader of the free world.

Our promise is that every country can and should be one that guarantees the inherent right to be free. It’s also an ideal that we can achieve common ground from different backgrounds and peoples, based largely on the principle that we would be a living proof of this, as a country of citizens from all over the world. We are a country of countries. We were born that way.

Only those descended from Native Americans are natural born of this land. The rest of us came to be here, through a lineage that either willingly came here, fled oppression or violence, or in the case of People of Color, were imprisoned and enslaved, having been forced to immigrate to this land. Today, we are made up largely of immigrants and descendants of immigrants or survivors of human trafficking and slavery.

When it comes to public service in our democracy, debate is vital to the health of our democracy. We just saw that with the first Democratic debate, last night. It is possible for people to stand on the stage, and have different ideas on how to lead our country towards that promise.

They did this while showing respect for their fellow candidates, showing respect for all citizens, and showing respect for the institutions they are running to serve in and lead.

We also saw that candidates can agree, and that’s not something we typically see in political campaigns. It shouldn’t be considered bad strategy, to find consensus with each other, because you’re having to play politics. The more we can agree on solutions together, the more we can actually get done. That’s the end goal that we’ve gone away from, because in the world of politics, it’s about who’s idea it was, and who gets credit for it, and if you agree, then maybe you are just a follower and not a leader. It’s a false and damaging notion that takes us away from our greater mission. That is one of government service, public representation, and delivering on the right to a government that is truly by the people and for the people. It’s not meant to be by one person and only for the wealthy few. It’s not meant to be for one race, one religion, or one orientation.

Imagine if we had a campaign for public office, and an election cycle, with out polling. I know it doesn’t seem realistic to suggest such an idea. I’m certain polling exerts would enjoy ripping me a new one. Let’s just keep in mind that this notion of campaigns being a debate on the ideas, and not politics, that’s what our lauded founding fathers intended us to do.

It just seems that polling is so fickle and shallow. It’s about who’s trending or popular, but we don’t know why they are receiving support. It’s not black and white in any way, but completely gray and muddy. There is no one definitive reason a person’s poll numbers might go up. It could be because of something they said. It could be because of an allegation that is floated, which might later be dispelled. It literally could be because someone farted in public. Talk about which way the wind blows.

The problem is that once a poll is released, it now tends to push the next poll. Now we have polls pushing polls. But after that, now the public starts to see someone’s got the race in the bag, and that either depresses turn out because everybody is sure that person will win, or it just builds their momentum because now they’re the popular person so let’s jump on the bandwagon.

Maybe if we didn’t focus on this arbitrary and meaningless number, we might be able to focus on who is more authentic, has the facts, comes with the receipts, has the resume of public service and advocacy, conveys the depths of their experience, and whatever else you think should be factored in. I personally believe morals and ethics are tantamount.

That’s something you have to watch out for over time, by seeing how they vote which is why I think that when people run for office they shouldn’t start at the top. They should start local and work their way up. I value experience, and I also value seeing the proof in the pudding. I can’t tell you how many posts I’ve seen of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in a committee hearing, and the byline of the video will say that she brought the receipts.

It’s the perfect metaphor because she is proving in her questioning that she’s prepared. She came to do the job, she’s fighting for the people, she’s using facts and reason to question these people on our behalf, and she’s proving why her district was right to elect her. She’s not taking PAC money. She’s not dealing in back rooms with lobbyists. She’s serving in a local restaurant, to bring attention to the unlivable wages of wait staff. She is engaging in government and grassroots activism. She is really in it for the people. We have a lot of these true, sincere public representatives in our Democratic Party. In Congress, at state levels, and I can at least say where I live, at the local level.

I just voted in our local primary, and the candidate I was supporting didn’t win. He would’ve been a real representative for our community. Instead we got the former TV personality, who I do not believe is in it for us. We shall see. You better believe I’ll be keeping my eye on her, and she better represent us well, or she’ll be gone in the next election.

As citizens, we generally have disdain for politics. Our voter turnout is abysmally low. I consider it the shame of this country that our citizens brag about being so patriotic, but in a local election year less than 30% of registered voters turn out to the polls.

I challenge every city in this country to organize and turnout the vote and show up for this year’s local election. Don’t just wait for 2020. We got a bump in 2018, but that doesn’t mean we are done. Voting and democracy is not a one time act. It must be maintained, and we must be diligent. We must demand transparency, and we must demand that our government is by the people and for the people, the way it is supposed to be.

We have a long way to go to get there. The only other option is that those in power stay in power, and refused to leave. Once it gets to that, we won’t be able to take it back. We need to have a government that is transparent, is accountable, and shows all the receipts. I want to see the facts, the math, science, and I want to have real debate on the moral imperative of our government to ensure our freedom and to serve us all equally.

We come together and pool our tax dollars for a common wealth, and people represent us in a commonwealth of ideas. Let’s not go broke, when we have every potential within us to fill the bank.

Who is Going to Fix the Potholes?

Early this year, candidates started announcing their intentions to run for the Democratic nomination for President, in the 2020 election. At first, I rolled my eyes. It’s that reflexive disdain for politics, that people often feel. The thing is, I have a B.S. in political science. I love this stuff. Nevertheless, I was annoyed that people were announcing so early. It’s like when the grocery store has Halloween candy in August. Do we have to start so early?

Then I started seeing what a stellar list of candidates there were, and the level of debate that was forming. Elizabeth Warren is a huge reason for this, and she’s not even my first pick. She’s put forward so much policy, she has made her candidacy the one to beat, on merit. She is the gold standard candidate, as far as I’m concern. She has plans and a platform, for her Presidency. Every candidate should be aiming for that bar.

The reason I rolled my eyes, at first, wasn’t the candidates. They weren’t the problem. It was because I don’t want the 2020 Democratic primary to drown out the election we have before that. If anyone is confused at what I’m talking about, I mean the 2019 election. If anyone is wondering what freaking election there is in 2019, you are not alone.

According to this – In the U.S., Almost No One Votes in Local Elections only about 15% – 30% vote in local elections. I live in Rochester, NY, and I usually see returns around 31% in a good year. 

Understand that this is a percentage of registered voters. There is a significant amount of our population, that is eligible to vote and are not registered. People complain about potholes, and they complain about corruption, but when we look to blame the politicians, we might want to save some blame for ourselves.

This country is a baby, compared to a lot of other countries. When we talk about the promise of our country, our potential, we are really talking about proving our democracy can work. We have yet to do that. We have yet to successfully guarantee that our democracy protects our citizens equally, and cares for the common good in a measured and real way. Part of that is because we are not doing our jobs as citizens. The entire idea of representation, when our forefathers were forming this nation, was to ensure that the people would tell the representatives how to represent their interests. It was never meant to run on auto-pilot.

Last year, we got a really good bump in turnout. We elected a record number of women to Congress and we made strides in state elections. I’m not just talking about Democrats. I’m talking about the country. We made strides in getting people to turn out and vote; to participate in our democracy.

Despite that, we have a lot of work ahead of us. Democracy is not a one-time thing, and we can’t just think we did pretty good showing up for that one vote, and now things should get better. Democracy is incumbent upon a participating citizenry. It is our civic duty, to ensure that laws are upheld It is also our job to ensure that representatives are accountable, transparent, and working for us, the people. 

There is a good check list of things, every citizen should be doing, if they are to be upholding their personal civic duty: 

1. Be Registered to Vote 

    • This includes periodically checking and confirming that you registration is in good standing.
    • If you need any information about registering, checking your registration, polling place, or to see who is on your ballot, google your county’s Board of Elections (BOE). For instance, I live in Monroe County, New York. I would google “Monroe County Board of Elections, New York” and I would get their website. From there I can call them or just search the site for what I need. 
    • Election laws are different in each state. It is important to register as early as possible, because some states have deadlines. Some might require ID. Look this stuff up now, so you know it and can plan accordingly. 
    • If you’re a super nerd (like me) you can go here on election night to see the returns, as they come in. They will be unofficial until the BOE certifies the results, which happens after election night. 

2. Identify Your Representatives 

    • President and Congress is good, but this is important at all levels of government. Put their contact info in your phone, if you want to be super dialed in 
    • Some apps will looks this stuff up for you, like https://www.countable.us/ and https://ballotpedia.org 
    • Local officials you can look up by going to your county, city and town websites, or calling them and asking them to tell you. Remember they work for you. Remember, they are good people and be nice to them. (Sincerely, someone who used to work for the BOE) 

3. Pay Attention to Your Representatives 

    • Pay attention to the news, or check the appropriate government sites, to see how your officials are voting on legislation. 
    • If you want your rep to propose legislation or vote a certain way, contact them. Otherwise, the only people talking to them, will be lobbyists, and the lobbyists will write them checks to get them re-elected. The only way to combat that, is a bunch of citizens calling them, to respectfully state, that they will vote them out, if they do not vote in the interest of the community. 
    • Use apps like https://resist.bot/ and https://www.countable.us/ to stay in touch, by sending them emails on issues that are important to you. 
    • If you really need their help on something, call their office and ask if you can make an appointment. If they are in Congress, remember that they split their time with being local and in DC, so it might be some time before you can get an appointment. Remember that whether you like your rep or not, their aides are government workers. Be kind to them, and remember they are just doing their job. 

4. Vote 

    • This should be number 1, but it comes after you do 1-3. 
    • Go with friends, volunteer to help elderly get to the polls, encourage fellow citizens to remember to vote. 
    • Support every citizen’s inalienable right to vote. Fight any voter suppression in your state. Every vote should count, and every vote should count equal to every other vote. 

5. Rinse and Repeat, All Year, Every Year 

I’m actually excited about the 2020 Democratic candidates (most of them). I think debate is good and challenging each other to be better is good. I think hearing different ideas is good. I think diverse plans and people, are good. 

I still want us to focus on the election at hand, and right now, that is the 2019 local election. The wins we have, in 2019, will build local coalitions across this country, for the 2020 election. Every year, we end up stronger or weaker, by the outcome of the previous year’s election. This is true for each political party, and it’s true for the country. 

I think our country will deliver on the promise of our democracy, when we can consistently get real turnout. I want to say 100% but I know people will call me naïve and a dreamer. If I say 90% some will say that is still too high to expect, but I think it’s necessary. Let’s at least try to improve on the last election at the same level. If 30% is the best we do for local elections, let’s shoot for 40% this year. Is that a lot? I would argue it’s not, but I also want 100%. Let’s say it would be a huge improvement. 

I commit to getting out the vote this year, and encouraging better voter turnout, even though is a local election year. I hope you will too. At least commit to the basics of civic duty, if you agree with me. Be registered, know your state’s election laws, know the candidates, and vote. 

Then maybe we can fix some of these damn pot holes, literally and proverbially.

In Duty to Public Service

Governor Northam,

I get that desire to put the past in the past, but this isn’t something that can just be forgiven and forgotten. A truly responsible candidate should be expected to disclose this kind of abhorrent behavior, and find some way to explain it to the public. Anyone seeking to serve the public, cannot dodge hard stuff like this. They must lead by example and do the hard things.

It being exposed, shows you hoped it wouldn’t come out, or you didn’t think it required any explanation or amends. You betrayed the trust of the people.
I am not from Virginia.
I am an American.
I am a lifelong Democrat.
I am not a person of color.
I am Jewish.
I am an ally to people of color.
It’s not enough to just apologize. A willingness to embrace hate, comes with consequences. It hurts real people. It encourages prejudiced people to attack minorities, to lie & marginalize them. If this country will ever live up to its potential, we must agree on a few things.
Our country has a core constitutional ideal, that every citizen has a right to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Our founding fathers stated that in our Declaration of Independence, & it was the framework for our Constitution & Bill of Rights. This is our promise.
We have yet to live up to it. We can, and that is our great promise, but we have yet to live up to it. Our founding fathers came up with this ideal, but they were also flawed men. We need not glorify them, as much as we need to tell their truth. We can’t rewrite the past.
Our founding fathers were white men, who massacred, kidnapped, tortured, and enslaved Africans and Native Americans. We slaughtered Mexicans, and interred Japanese. We continue to damage, threaten and attack people of color, Muslims, people of Islamic faith, Jewish, LGBT….

I cannot support someone as a candidate or elected official, who spreads hate, nor one who would fail to disclose past acts of hate & prejudice. It is a failing of the oath our officials swear, to defend the equal rights of every citizen.

Governor Northam, you must resign. If you are committed to repairing the damage, you must accept these consequences and work to repair the damage, as a private citizen.

Sincerely,
A Citizen Committed to Equality for People of Color

Quiz – What Kind of Man are You?

The Kavanaugh allegations of attempted rape are triggering for so many women, and I know this blog post of mine will be just one in a crowd.  Nevertheless, I feel compelled to tell my story. I would say stories, but it’s the story of what I’ve experienced, in my life so far. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg is quoted as saying,

“I ask no favor for my sex; all I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.”
(Watch Ruth Bader Ginsburg Talk Sexism, Equality in New Doc Trailer)

The biggest part that is so triggering for me, and so many other women, is that there is debate at all. An incredibly brave woman came forward with a horrifically serious allegation of sexual assault and attempted rape. She was so young when it happened, of course she didn’t feel strong enough to say anything to an authority. I don’t blame her. She was over-powered by extremely privileged white boys, who had money and power. I wouldn’t want to go up against that kind of power, for fear of getting attacked any more than I already had been.

I’m not trying to speak for her. She has every right to speak or not speak, for herself. I am simply empathizing with her experience, and putting all my understanding where it should be; with the person saying they were assaulted.  By virtue of it being established fact, that they knew each other at the time, that makes this a credible enough allegation that there has to be an FBI investigation. If not, our Senate, our President, and our government will be failing one of our citizens, in dismissing the justice Dr. Ford seeks. There is no statute of limitations on this. There is no deadline for vetting a nominee. McConnell reinforced that precedent, with Judge Merrick Garland.

There is a duty, of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to thoroughly and extensively vet any nominee for the Supreme Court. It isn’t supposed to be as incredibly partisan as it is. Republicans are forsaking their duty to remain impartial in this process, and they are acting in bad faith, by not requesting the FBI do a thorough background check, to determine the veracity of this claim.

The hardest part of watching this all happen, is seeing all the men rushing to defend Kavanaugh. They want to discredit Dr. Ford’s claims, by mistaken identity, and suggesting that she should have reported it sooner.  I decided to write this, so that I could stand up and in front of Dr. Ford, even if just in my own small way.  I will recount all the times I have been put upon, by a man. All of the times, I have had a man’s foot on my neck, at least in a sexual way. Where a man treated me as an object, or as a gender he had a right to take ownership of. To touch, feel, grab, push, pull, overpower.

One

When I was 5, I was raped by a family member.  I have not confronted that person, and have little reason to believe he will ever read this post. We don’t keep in touch with that side of the family, and didn’t much back then. That’s likely why he did it. He figured he would get away with it. I had blocked it out, a while after it happened, and it came flooding back to me, one day, when I was at the gym, in my late 20’s. I remember doing sit-ups and all the sudden, all the memories came flooding back.

The dress I was wearing.  It was white and yellow. My mom had made it for me. I remember my underwear, because he had pulled them down. They were white and had frilly lace on the bottoms. I remember the desk he had put me on. I remember when he picked me up, hurriedly sat in the chair, and whisked me onto his lap, because there was a knock at the door.  I remember him whispering in my ear, “If you tell anyone, I will kill your mom, your dad, and and your brother.” I was terrified. I know I tried to tell my mom a few times.

Because I was terrified that he would somehow find out, and would kill my mom, my favorite person, I always chickened out.

Two

By the time I was 12, I had blocked it out, and didn’t really remember what had happened. That doesn’t mean the trauma didn’t affect me. I acted out a lot, and was most certainly being affected by the trauma, but I was blind to why, because I had never been able to process what happened to me. I had buried it, along with my childhood.

When I was 12, I would go with a friend, to help her deliver her paper route after school. We lived in a small town, so we were allowed to hang out in town alone.  The plan was to go to her place after we finished her route, and do our homework.  It started raining, so we ran into the Nice ‘N Easy. My friend told me to wait there, and she would run to drop off a few of the papers, so I wouldn’t get so wet. She knew the store clerk, an older guy.

After she left, he chatted with me. Small talk, really. He then told me, that I could come back behind the counter and see what it was like back there. I was so young and naive, I just thought that was so cool. It was like getting to go backstage in a show.  Once I went back there, he cornered me, and started trying to feel me up. I was so scared and uncomfortable. I hadn’t even hit puberty yet. I was still playing with dolls and didn’t understand what was happening. He had cornered me into an actual corner, between the doorway to leave the behind the counter area, and the rest of the back area. He had his arm up to block me, so I couldn’t get away.

All of the sudden, my friend came back in.  I screamed her name, and he got distracted.  I dodged under his arm, but had to go toward the counter, because I couldn’t risk not being able to get out the door, on the other side. I jumped over the counter, like a hurdle, and we both ran out of there.  I will never forget how terrified I was, and how much I wanted to punch him in the throat, as much as I needed to get away. I was infuriated, but he had all the power.

Three

When I was a teenager (about 14), I was in and out of trouble with my parents. Because my dad was a psychologist and my mom was a nurse, they were well versed in the importance of mental health, and wanted me to go to counseling. For a brief while, I saw a psychologist. I didn’t get a great feeling from him. He made me uncomfortable. During one session, he got up from his seat, and sat next to me. He was trying to get me to open up. He put his hand on my thigh. I shot up off the couch and sprang to the other side of the room. I was still fresh from the experience in the convenient store. I was so done with men being gropey with me, that I told my mom, and she let me get a new counselor. This time, I got to pick a woman.

Four

When I was a senior in high school, I worked full-time at McDonald’s. I met a lot of great friends there, and ended up moving in with one.  My parents were divorced, both in a battle over child support money that they both needed, because we didn’t have a lot of money. I was caught in the middle, and since I worked full time, I really just waned to not be involved in the drama.  The friend I moved in with, lived in a double-wide trailer, about a town and a half away from my town and school.

She lived with her boyfriend, and 2 other guys, who were crashing with them.  One of the guys apparently liked me a lot. He constantly remarked at how pretty I was, to the point that it got incredibly uncomfortable.  When my friend gave me the choice of the spare bed, couch or recliner chair to sleep in, I chose the chair. It really was comfy, but also made it way harder for that guy to try anything. Anytime we would be hanging out, he would poke me, and try to be handsy with me, and I cringed every time. It got so bad my friend finally told him to leave me the hell alone. He knocked it off after that, but it wasn’t until my friend told him to respect my boundaries, to be left alone, that he was finally called out to a level that made him stop.

Five

I was raped, when I was in college. Yeah, I know. Why does this keep happening to me? This was before I had unblocked being raped as a child. This wasn’t a violent rape. It was the type of “acquaintance” rape, we are talking more and more about. I had had way too much to drink, which many might blame me for. It’s certainly why I never reported it. I knew I would be told I drank too much, and it was my fault.  I was hanging out in front of the off campus apartment, where I was living, during my senior year. I met this cute guy, hanging out at my neighbor’s.

He invited me to walk back with him, to his place, to hang out.  I said sure. It was the weekend, and like I said, he was cute. On the way, we took shortcuts through yards and over brick walls, because they were just shortcuts he knew. I sprained my ankle at one point, and he was a complete gentleman.  We got back to his place, hung out for a while, and then got on the top bunk of his bed, to make out. Once it started to go too far, I told him to stop. I said the word “stop” and “no” multiple times, while trying to push his body off me, but he was too heavy for me to over-power him, and I was too drunk.

I did the proverbial walk of shame, later that next morning. I had to go to the health center to get crutches, the morning after pill, and the doctor told me I would need to wait about 3 months to be tested for HIV, and then I would want to keep getting tested every 6 months, for the next year or so.   I saw him out at a bar a week or so later, when my friends encouraged me to at least come out to have a drink with them.  He apologized profusely and said there was no excuse, not even him being drunk, but he really didn’t even remember what had happened, until one of my friends told him. I’ll never forget, since that was the moment I thought I lost my virginity, in the last way I ever hoped to lose it.

Years later, when I finally remembered the childhood trauma that I had blocked out, I eventually realized that my virginity had never really been mine. It had been taken from me long before I ever even thought of giving it away.

Now

Seeing what the men in the Republican party are doing to Dr. Ford now, disgusts me. It also confirms my suspicions, that if I had ever come forward with any of these allegations, toward any of the men who had put themselves upon me, I would have invited myself to be attacked by more men. Not sexually, but it would result in me reliving those horrible experiences again and again. That’s why so many women are exulting her bravery. It is not to be understated. It is no small thing, to come forward with a claim of sexual assault, attempted rape, rape, or molestation. You will 100% be told you are lying, don’t remember details correctly, should have reported sooner, and are making it a bigger deal than it is.

Dr. Ford has no reason to lie, and nothing to gain by this, other than justice. What I can’t stomach, is that I see so many women standing up for Dr. Ford and so many men standing up for Kavanaugh. Senator Grassley and Senator McConnell should be shamed from the Senate, for not taking this seriously. This is not Democrats trying to discredit their nominee. They didn’t do this. Kavanaugh did this, when he put himself upon Dr. Ford, when they were teenagers. It doesn’t matter that it has been 35 years. It does matter, that he has never accepted responsibility for his actions, and it matters a lot that the Republicans backing his nomination to the Supreme Court are more concerned with confirming him, than they are at fully vetting him.

That’s not the way our Senate is supposed to work. Just as they are supposed to check and balance abuses by our Executive branch, they are supposed to check and balance the Judicial branch. Extensively vetting a nominee for the highest court, is part of that duty. It is a sacred duty, and it is a higher calling. It cannot be all partisan politics. It has to be public service, for the greater good. The greater good absolutely, must include full agency, autonomy, and justice be preserved not just for men, but for women.

Her life was permanently marred, by Kavanaugh’s actions, in high school.  I’m sure he thought he would never be caught or held responsible for pushing himself on her. To quote his own thinking, “What happens at Georgetown Prep stays at Georgetown Prep” (‘What happens at Georgetown Prep stays at Georgetown Prep’: Kavanaugh remarks in 2015 speech get renewed scrutiny)

I don’t know what other American women see, when they see the pictures of Kavanaugh, in his heyday. To me, he looks like the epitome of rich, entitled, white prep boy. This is a class of boys, who grow up so rich, they have no idea that most of the world has no where near the privilege they have. They aren’t raised to care about others, only about getting what they want, because they are rich and entitled to it. They take what they want. They have the most decked out locker rooms, to talk about any kind of locker room talk, they desire. 

Is this an unfair characterization? If women all women reported all sexual assault, you would be shocked to find how many girls have been raped by boys fitting that description. It’s an epidemic, and the worst part is, grown men in the Senate are perpetuating that culture. They are excusing it any way that they can, and they are doing everything they can to cover it up and sweep it under the rug. If they weren’t. Grassley and McConnell would both be requesting an FBI investigation and they would subpoena Mark Judge, before asking Dr. Ford to testify. They would have sensitivity to what she is saying happened, and they would take her claim as credible, for no other reason than she has no reason to lie. If they cared about the justice of it, they should want to know if it is true, and that would mean a proper investigation, and it would not mean putting the onus on Dr. Ford.

My story and the different things I went through are so commonplace, that they won’t make much noise. That’s because there are so many worse stories out there. That doesn’t make the trauma or the pain less, but it does make you feel the weight of the history of women being oppressed. Yes, this happens to boys and men too. The problem is, that in the history of man-kind, men typically have full agency, autonomy, and power. They have historically over-powered women in a systemic way. It seeps into every part of every culture. We go from being our father’s daughters to our husband’s wives. We go from belonging to one man, to belonging to another man. That used to mean as real property. Women were literally given their hand in marriage, to the best buyer. The dowry was a bribe. Money, livestock, and anything else that made the woman have any value at all, being that she was not endowed with power or worth of her own making.

Yes, we have long since left those days, but that doesn’t mean men have fully gotten the memo, that women don’t owe them anything. If a guy buys a girl a drink at a bar, does she owe him something? If he buys her dinner? Where is the line of demarcation? At what point does a woman lose her autonomy and agency? When she becomes pregnant and loses the right to chose what happens to her body? When she’s walking down the street and a man decides her butt looks good enough to slap? When a guy decides she is sleeping, so she won’t even know?

When Anita Hill showed the world what courage looks like, I was still very young. I was 13, and my parents were in the middle of getting divorced. I remember her raising her hand. I remember the hearings, with mostly old white men starring her down, and thinking how terrified she must have felt.  I didn’t know much, but I remember the feeling in my gut. I knew she was going to get clobbered by those men. I ached with sadness, that she wasn’t better protected at the time. I’m grateful that she is speaking up again now, considering she is certainly well versed in the attacks Dr. Ford is now receiving.

If we are truly going to learn a lesson, from what Anita Hill went through, then I say it’s time we put it to men to stand up and say what kind of man they are. Hence the title of this piece “Quiz – What Kind of Man are You?”. I chose that title, because I keep seeing the same patterns of discourse from men. “Geeze! What are we supposed to do? Can we even say hi to women, without them crying rape? What the hell?” These men need to take a seat, read more stories, like mine, and hear more women. They need to stop putting their “fun” ahead of the full equity and equality of women.

Here is a starting point.  Pick what type of man your are, and then we can work on how to proceed:

It’s Not That Big of a Deal, Man

This type of man will always put all the responsibility, on a woman. If a woman is put upon by a man, she welcomed it, she didn’t do enough to prevent it, and she didn’t report it fast enough. It’s never the fault of the man, and if it was, it was either a long time ago, or she should have done something differently. 

Your remedy: Stop doing that. Sit down and listen to more women. A lot of women don’t report, and your perspective, your rhetoric is the problem. You may not have committed assault against a woman, but your excuses inflict damage, and allow assault to be explained away.

It’s None of My Business, Man

This type of man will always try to say this is a private matter. It’s none of his business, and we shouldn’t talk about it. This type of guy will also encourage girls/women to pretend it never happened. Just don’t talk about it and move on.  

Your remedy: Stop doing that. Period. You cannot sweep this under the rug, and you disservice all women. Imagine every woman you care about, has been raped. I know, it’s a really horrific and uncomfortable feeling, right? Now imagine that she can’t say anything, because she has seen you suggest that we shouldn’t talk about it. You have shown her how you’ll respond. She knows she won’t have your support, which means she will never get the support she needs.


He’s Got a Bright Future, Man

This type of man will excuse what happened, as not as of big a deal as the woman is making it out to be. He was drunk, or it was a long time ago, or it was just horseplay.  Your bottom line is that this guy has a bright future, and you don’t want to see it ruined. To you, the man is more important than the woman. Not just more important. He is the only one, who’s future you seem concerned with. Her justice is never as important to you. Her injury is more an inconvenience to you, than anything else. Her past and future take a back seat to his past and future. 

Your remedy: Stop doing that. Anytime there is an allegation of sexual assault, take it seriously. Spend at least a little time, trying to imagine someone else having power over you. Their breath on you, their hands on you, and their whispers in your ear. You have to remember, that in this reality, you have no power. Now, imagine telling the world, just to have them say the person who did that to you has a bright future. How much does that matter to you? What about your future? Now go walk a mile in high heels, and do that, every time you start to think the man’s future is more important than ensuring justice for the woman. Imagine every woman who comes forward, is the woman you care most about in this world. If that woman is your mom, imagine it was your mom, when she was young. If it is your sister, your wife, or a really close friend, imagine them being handed these excuses. You don’t have to be the father of a daughter. You just have to care about at least 1 woman. Imagine it happened to them, and then consider how much you care about the man’s future.

The real remedy, is for men to condemn other men who perpetuate locker room talk, especially when it includes talk of “she wanted it”, “she was so drunk, she didn’t even know”, and “I just grabbed her by the pussy”. This is a problem, that women have been grappling with, since the dawn of time.  I say grappling, because it is as difficult as rock climbing a treacherous cliff. One slip and we will get seriously hurt. We shouldn’t have to carry pepper spray, adjust our clothing, cover our drinks so they don’t get spiked, walk in groups, pretend we are on the phone with a boyfriend or a man who will protect us, but we do. This is a problem that women have always had, and it won’t stop being our problem, until men make it their own problem to fix.  Women need men to be the men we need them to be. Ones who have our backs, as much as they do their “bros”.

He’s Got My Back, Man

I don’t know Dr. Ford or her family, but from what I’ve read, she spoke about this attack, in therapy with her husband. I’d wager her husband falls in this category.  I have seen many men on social media saying that they have her back. I see a lot of men standing up and saying we should believe her. I see a lot saying that we need an FBI background check done immediately, that Mark Judge should be subpoenaed to testify, and that if the claims have merit, the nomination should be withdrawn. I’ve seen quite a few of these men, recently. I would like to see a whole lot more.  If you aren’t this kind of man, then you are, by default, one of the types described above.

In today’s society, men hold power. If you don’t believe me, check the organizational chart at the company you work for. Just look at the executive board. I doubt 1/2 the companies out there have even 50% of their board led by women. Then look at a map of Congress; House and Senate. Check how many men represent us, and how many women. This country is 51% women, but our government is mostly run by old white men, many of whom came from rich, entitled prep-boy upbringings, where what happens in their rich, secret clubs, stay there. 

In order for society to do right by the women, who keep coming forward in this age of #MeToo, we need the men to stand shoulder to shoulder with us. Either you have our back, or you are just another man, with your foot on our neck.

The NY Governor’s Democratic Primary

I wrote this piece, in April, shortly after Cynthia Nixon announced she was running for the office.

One Upstate New York Democrat’s View on Cythia Nixon and the Governor’s Race

Last night, I watched the debate.  What did I learn? Not much. Cuomo is pretty smug and likes being seen as a tough New Yorker. It’s a really bad look, and I wish he’d see it doesn’t really endear himself to voters. His dad seemed to know this. I was much younger, but I remember Mario Cuomo having more grace and humility to his ways.

Andrew Cuomo would have been way better focusing on her lack of experience, instead of taking cheap shots at her incorporating or sending a letter to the Governor’s office.  Citizens are supposed to ask our elected officials and government offices to help with our complaints. He didn’t make her look bad, as much as he made it look like he was using his office to find any dirt he could find on her. I get that he doesn’t want her to just look all progressive and squeaky clean, but she does. It’s not a fight he’s going to win. Instead he should have focused on his experience at doing the real work of being Governor. We need people with expertise.

I see people going after Senator Schumer and Rep Nancy Pelosi, calling them establishment. People like to demonize expertise as a bad thing, but in the face of a corrupt administration in the White House, we need people who already know where the proverbial lights are. We need people who know the rules and how to resist this administration every time they do something horrible to citizens and refugees.

I think Cynthia Nixon has some fantastic ideas. I think she sounds like an excellent progressive. She still has absolutely no experience in public service, and I think it’s dangerous to elect her as Governor of our state, without first having her run for a lower office. Her name and celebrity status shouldn’t preclude her from making that kind of commitment, if that’s what she really wants to do. Run for Mayor or State Legislature, and then run for Governor, after you get some experience. If you apply to a company, do you apply for CEO, without ever even being a Manager at any company? Or do you apply for the position of Manager and work your way up? We shouldn’t shortcut that hard work. The experience gained is invaluable. It cannot be bought.

I do think it was a bogus question, to ask her if she would donate her salary.  Public servants should get a salary, because we don’t want wealthy autocrats running our government for no pay. If we have that, they will be lining their pockets in other ways. That salary is a drop in the bucket of our state budget, and I would have so much preferred a question on the state’s agricultural concerns, what she even knows about upstate needs, and how we don’t really give much of a crap about the MTA. There is no MTA in Albany, Syracuse, Binghamton, Rochester, Buffalo, or Niagara Falls (yes there is a US Niagara Falls; not just one in Canada).

So here is where I am at. I will vote for him in the primary, but I walked away from the debate finding him smug and quite possibly a sexist guy. I hate to say that, but I really want him to answer for that donation from the Weinstein lawyer, right as he suspended the investigation. Why did he suspend the investigation? I want a good reason, and I can’t imagine one.

I think it’s dangerous to vote for someone with 0 experience, for Governor of an entire state, so I’m going with our incumbent Governor, who has been on the ground helping Puerto Rico, offering legal assistance to detained immigrants, and who has done a lot of good for this state. If a more progressive candidate comes along, with experience, he better watch out, but for now his experience trumps her progressive desires.

Without the experience of how being governor and fighting a state legislature actually works, that’s all it is. It’s what she would love to do. I have a lot I’d love to see done. Getting it done is the hard part. If it was easy, everyone would do it.  I will say this. If Cynthia Nixon wins the primary, she will get my vote in November. No way will I allow this state, that I love, turn to red.

Neither of them is perfect, and neither is a bad candidate. We aren’t picking between the lesser of two evils or two bad candidates. We are choosing between two decent candidates. This isn’t a purity test. This is a representative democracy, by the people and for the people. We are all human, and we must keep that in mind, when we look to our elected officials and candidates to pass our litmus tests.

Either way, I hope Democrats and Independents and people who don’t register with a party, all show up to vote. I hope Republicans vote. I hope everyone votes for the party that wants to ensure there is accountability and transparency. We need a blue Congress, not just to stop Trump, but to stop McConnell. He is a poison pill in the Senate, and he must be stopped. We need Democratic Governors, to ensure that states protect their people’s rights, if the federal government tries to not protect them. We must be united, in the face of a faction of people relentlessly trying to divide us.

Thank you for your time and I look forward to your thoughts.

My Apology to Hillary Clinton and Robin Wilt

I owe an apology to Hillary Clinton and to Robin Wilt.  Hillary Clinton ran for President, in 2016, and despite winning the popular vote, lost the electoral college by about 40,000 votes. It cost her the Presidency, and despite all the talking heads, it was not as simple as they may like to pretend it was.

Robin Wilt just ran in the Democratic primary, for the 25th Congressional district, in New York. This is the seat that has been represented, for decades, by a giant. Louise Slaughter was the real deal. She was brilliant, competent, compassionate, and she had no ego. I got to meet her, and even work with her, on county level politics, about 20 years ago. She never needed the fanfare, and just wanted to get the job done, whatever the job was. She was happy taking a back seat, to give up a more prime seat, if there was bickering. She really had no hubris. Filling her shoes is not something that can ever be done, but this seat in Congress, must nevertheless be filled. We need our representation.

I compared the 4 candidates, on the ballot in the Democratic primary, for this seat.. They included Joe Morelle, a longtime Assemblyman, and what many label the establishment Democrat. That seems to be a smear lately, and I think that’s bad for the entire resistance, that progressives in the party are using it against people on our own side of the aisle, but we’ll get to that.

Rachel Barnhart, was a local reporter, who has repeatedly attempted to enter elected office, but has yet to be successful.  I give her credit, for standing up and running for any office. It’s not easy, and it take a lot of commitment.  That’s about all I give her, because I don’t respect her campaign tactics, and I have concerns that she keeps running for different offices, hoping to get a good gig.  I also think she keeps running, so she can fund-raise to pay off past campaign debt, but that’s just my experience with the motivations people have to run for any office available.

Adam McFadden is a member of the Rochester City Counsel. He is a good local politician, but also a hothead, and I did not have confidence in his ability to be effective in Congress. I like him at the city level, even if that is selfish of me. I think he’s good for Rochester.

Robin Wilt is a professional, who has served on the Brighton, NY town board, and who has been a long time grassroots activist. She is the real deal. She didn’t just get into politics, for the limelight. She got into the political sphere, because she was attempting to affect change. What happened? She did. She got change to happen, again and again.  Once you compare all 4 of the candidates, it’s not hard to see why I chose to vote for Robin Wilt. She may not have been the “obvious” choice, but I had absolute confidence that she was the best choice.

Morelle won the primary. He’s really a good guy, and I know he will be receptive to his constituents. I’m excited to vote for him to be my next rep in the house, this November. I’m still bummed it won’t be Wilt on the ballot, but I will move on. We have too much to fight for, too much to resist, to dwell on what is done.

To that end, I won’t lament over the 2016 election either. i.e. How I saw the candidates and such. I already wrote on that, here (I May Be a Relucant Clinton Supporter, But I’m Getting There) . Instead, I want to explain why I owe Ms. Clinton and Ms. Wilt an apology.

See, I kind of stumbled into my engagement with both the 2016 Presidential election, and this 2018 Democratic primary for the 2018 midterm elections.  It’s not like I tripped and fell. It’s more like I was lazy. I rolled out of bed, and dragged myself to the voting booth, with tepid zeal, and it had little to do with the candidates. Despite the mass of incivility people fling at candidates and elected officials, my indifference was more emblematic of the tenor of standard American voter apathy. Spare me the character assassinations, you might all choke my apathy out to really being about. I’m talking about something more important.

My friends consider me an exception to the rule, because I am an informed citizen, and they are not wrong.  America is a paradox. People wave the flag and cry patriotism. People also roll their eyes at campaigns and complain when people bring up politics. “I just can’t. I could care less. They all suck. Blah, blah, blah.” Well put, don’t you think?  The point is, we have a bigger problem than corrupt, racist, and/or lazy elected officials. We have a lazy, apathetic citizenry, and I am part of the problem. For that, I need to apologize to the candidates who stood up to serve, and who were let down by the citizens who they would have represented with their whole heart and soul.

I know, I sound like a naive simpleton, musing romantic notions about the ideals of our democracy.  To that I say, sit down won’t you please?  This country is a democratic republic. Yes, it’s a republic, because we elected a President, but it is still a representative democracy, in that we vote for our leaders, and the executive branch is a co-equal branch, that has no more power than the legislative body of representatives.

I am starting to really see that our problems and our solutions are intertwined. The more people engage in the process, by being informed and by voting, the more representative our democracy can be. The less people engage, the less it is representative. If you were elected to office, and your constituents never called or contacted you, to ask you to vote a certain way on a bill, but a contact from a lobbying group did contact you, that is the only voice you hear.

It’s easy to blame the politicians, but it’s harder to take responsibility, for our part in this. If we aren’t telling our elected officials how we want them to represent us, how do we expect them to know?  If we keep re-electing the people, who never vote in our interests, how do we expect to get any better results? (I’m looking at you, Kentucky. Mitch McConnell is a cancer in the Senate. He has perverted the Senate rules and our country’s laws, for greedy personal agenda, and has never once served the actual needs of the people of Kentucky.)

I supported Sanders, in 2016, vowing to ultimately support the nominee, as the Presidential election was too important. He disappointed me more than I can say, after the nomination, but I also disappointed myself. I should have volunteered more, in Clinton’s campaign. I could have phone banked (in hindsight, focusing on Wisconsin and Michigan would have been really helpful).

I did support Clinton online, pushing for people to give her a chance. I did do some canvassing (knocking on doors and getting people to consider voting for her). I took off of work on Election day, so I could volunteer with the local Democratic Committee. They coordinate driving people to the polls to vote, if they don’t have a way to get there. Republicans spin this as us desperate to get out our vote. Not only is that crass, cynical, and jaded, it’s inaccurate. I have been a life-long democrat. I won’t speak for the whole party, but including when I was the Director of Operations at the Monroe County Democratic Committee and on that election day, my primary goal was to ensure citizens had their voices heard. Even if you were planning to register or vote for a Republican, I still wanted to get you registered and get you to the polls. That is the only way all of our voices are heard.

On that election day, I answered phones, looked up peoples’ registration, polling places, coordinated rides, helped around the office, and did whatever I could to help.  I should have been doing that for weeks. My “lazy” excuse is that I have lupus and fibromyalgia, so even though I sit at a desk all day, I’m exhausted by the time I’m done with work, and can’t fathom going to volunteer anywhere. I am working to push past that, because I know so many accomplish so much more, with so much less than I have.

When it came to the primary for the 25th Congressional district, I would say I did the least amount possible, for a citizen to do, while still being involved at all.  I looked up who the candidates were, I picked one, and I voted.  Because I like to encourage the voter turnout, I put together the info I found, into a tweet:

I wasn’t able to watch the debate, because I was attending a preview screening of the Mr. Rogers documentary that night, Won’t You Be My Neighbor. It was a very special story, that I’m glad I got to see. I figured I would look for the debate online. I also found the Democrat and Chronicle’s summary of it. To be fair to all candidates, I included a 2nd thread to the tweet, listing all their twitter handles and websites, so voters could decide for themselves. I didn’t inject my opinion, because my first goal was to encourage people to show up.

After work, I went to my therapy session, and then went home to pick up my partner, so we could go vote together.  It took us less than 15 minutes. There was 1 guy ahead of us. I checked online later, and saw a local news outlet had reported about 16% turnout, for the election.  It is considered that there should be at least 20% of a body, to achieve a quorum (the minimum number of members of an assembly or society that must be present at any of its meetings to make the proceedings of that meeting valid. ~ google dictionary definition ). We didn’t even achieve that.

It gave me hope to see how well NY14 did in showing the country that a newcomer can oust a decades long incumbent, if that incumbent gets complacent and doesn’t engage with their constituents. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also showed that the Democratic party is a huge tent. While pundits wax nostalgic, for the Democratic party to be progressive and not “establishment”, I would again like to ask them to take a damn seat. Nancy Pelosi has worked hard to do good, despite the many character assassinations against her. Same with Chuck Schumer. That doesn’t mean they aren’t flawed, and don’t make any bad decisions.

I have disagreed with both of them many times. Most recently, their condemning of Maxine Waters. Representative Waters wasn’t advocating harassment, but she was encouraging people to speak truth to power. She was saying, that if you support a fascist, expect to have people protesting you. What’s more, they knew this, but spoke against her, instead of backing her up. Meanwhile none of them thought to condemn Steve King for retweeting a nazi.  Does that mean we should dump them? No. It really doesn’t, and the mob mentality to pile on, when we find a crack in the walls, drives me nuts. No elected official is perfect, but we have to balance the good with the bad.

The thing is, the Democratic party needs only one message. We want every citizen to vote. Be informed, and be engaged. Vote. Republicans are pushing against voting rights, for gerrymandering, and for closing polling places, shortening early voting windows, and making voting harder. It’s pretty easy to see which party wants our democracy to be truly representative, and which party just wants to wield power, with no one to stop them, and no one paying attention. Beyond that one succinct message, the party needs to drown out the talking heads and just get to the real work of grassroots campaigning, for every candidate on the ballot. Divide resources equally, stop playing favorites, and put the egos aside.

I truly do believe that how representative a democracy can be, directly correlates to how engaged it’s citizenry is in the process. Right now, I think our federal government is so far from being representative, we are close to losing that representation; that democracy. The thing is, it can truly change over night.  Not by polls, or noise. Not by a big October surprise, or some bombshell occurrence, even though those things can affect outcomes. No. It can happen in 1 day. The one day, that the elected officials stop representing us, and we can choose who we want speaking for us all over again. Every elected official is fired, on that day, and asking to be re-hired. Every citizen is their boss.

Election day is a sacred day, when we get to choose who represents us and how we are represented.  It will never matter what the polls say. “She doesn’t have a chance”, “He’s got it in the bag”, “It’s a tight race, but demographics and turn out averages suggest, blah, blah, blah.” It’s all speculation. Sure there is some analysis to it, but every year, there is a new pool of eligible voters. American citizens turn 18, and get to cast a vote. Any year they choose to yield that power, they can swing the whole ball game.

Does this all sound naive? Maybe, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. It’s the very core of what this country is supposed to be about. The experiment of a free democracy seems to live on America’s shoulders. It’s time us citizens take our part in holding up that burden. It’s time we show up.

Hillary Clinton, I’m sorry I didn’t volunteer more, and sooner.

Robin Wilt, I’m sorry I researched too late, and didn’t volunteer at all. I showed up to vote, but that is not always enough. It’s especially not enough when the authentic candidate is an underdog. When 2 of the 4 candidates have massive name recognition, grassroots campaigning is imperative, and it takes people being willing to volunteer their free time to help get the word out. Really believe in someone? You might have to get your hands dirty, and get out in the streets.

I promise to do better. To phone bank, canvass, volunteer, engage and to show up. It’s my patriotic duty, as a citizen of this country, and not doing so is abdicating my responsibility to this country that I owe so much.

 

Instead of Them, Let’s Support Us

Many are reeling from the ever-emerging news that the Trump administration has been turning away people at the border, who are seeking asylum. They force them to cross illegally, so they can detain them instead. This is egregious enough, but that’s not enough for the white supremacists in the White House. They are ripping kids away from their parents arms, and separating them. The parents get detained, and charged. The kids are being sent to detainment camps and agencies all over the country, with no paperwork, to reunite them with their parents, ever. 
 
Some people think it’s not their problem. Some people are wrong.  There are about 65 million displaced people in this world (https://news.sky.com/story/we-must-help-refugees-because-simply-it-could-be-you-11410452). Human beings. More often than not, they are taken in by developing countries, while more developed countries, like the US, shrug their shoulders and prioritize that we have to protect our borders. People need to fill out the proper paper work, is the problem. If only these people fleeing devastation, would ask nicely, get in a line and wait their turn, then we would welcome them in. I highly doubt that is true, but my priority is on all these kids, that the government has effectively kidnapped.
 
The rest of us want to help those who need help the most.  Many of us want to help these people who have had their kids ripped away from them, by our government. Many of us want our government to be held responsible for the human rights abuses they are committing in plain daylight.
 
So it’s us vs them, right? 
Who is the us, though? 
Who is the them? 
Left vs right? 
American vs immigrant? 
 
I say we chuck all the dividing lines and look at this differently. Us, are people. The human race. A global community. If we are all one people, then maybe we can support each other, without regard to whether that person lives next door to us, in the next country, or across the world. It shouldn’t matter. If your house was on fire, and you ran over to someone else’s house to ask for help, what would you hope they would do? Let you in? Or tell you to just go back to your house, fill out some paper work, and prove that I should let you come into my house? Should I take your kid and have you arrested, for trespassing on my property? I mean you did step on my property, which is trespassing. Is that what is important here, or is your house being on fire, maybe the more important issue we need to prioritize?
 
I don’t care if an immigrant comes here legally or illegally, I will not call them illegal. They are human beings. They are souls, and they are people who bleed, just like me. I will stand up for them, as soon as I will stand up for my friends and family. I don’t understand people who won’t. I admire those who do.
 
An old friend asked me some ideas for how to help, so I put this together. I thought I would share it, for anyone else looking for ways to help.  I by no means have all the best ways to help, but this is what I’ve got.
 
Donate

One way to help is donating to legal efforts to represent the parents and fight for them to be reunited with their kids

RAICES:
https://www.facebook.com/donate/490507544717085/

Act Blue has a fundraiser that is being spit across orgs including ACLU:
https://secure.actblue.com/donate/families-border
I got that one from Hillary Clinton on Twitter

Michael Avenatti (Stormi Daniels attorney) has pledged (and already started) to represent 50 moms, pro bono. While he’s covering the legal cost, there are other expenses like bond for the moms and such. There is a crowd-funding effort for that:
https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/stop-separating-families/

 
Contact Your Reps in Congress

Contact reps and keep contacting them:
Use @resistbot – you start a message to resistbot in fab messenger. It will get your info to look up your reps, and then it’s easy to type “resist” then “Congress” then type your message. Hit enter, then “done” and then “send” and they send you message right to your reps.

@Countable is another great app for messaging your reps on any legislation being voted on.

Calling reps is really important too, especially if your rep is a Republican. We have to demand they vote with Dems on this. They should sign on to Senator Feinstein’s bill called Keep Families Together.

We should be calling for an investigation and hearings. There is no oversight, so abuses aren’t being reported at all.

Protest
 
Sign up for a protest event for June 30th. This will hopefully be a massive nation-wide protest in solidarity with our fellow global citizens, who are being horrifically mistreated by this government:
 

I saw people have been protesting one ICE office so much they had to close:
https://www.npr.org/2018/06/21/622243400/ice-temporarily-closes-portland-office-amid-tumult-of-protests-across-u-s

Not sure that is realistic, nation-wide, but hey I’d love to see them unable to do their job.

As crappy as it is, we need to get people registered and convinced that their vote is everything. It’s crappy, because we can’t wait that long. These kids can’t wait that long. That’s not soon enough to help all those people, but there are some horrific realities:

  1. Some parents have already been deported and kids placed in private adoption agencies. It will be near impossible to get them reunited 
  2. Some kids have been “misplaced” and turned over to human traffickers. 
  3. At least one father killed himself, after his kid was take from him
  4. Congress is controlled by the GOP, who will not hold the Trump administration accountable
  5. Russia is going to attempt to hack our election. We need a blue wave so that the margins are so wide, Democrats overwhelmingly take over Congress.

Those realities are why we need an independent investigation, public hearings, and independent oversight of family reunification. We need an independent and accountable source, so that they will actively advocate for the parents and kids, not be shills for Trump’s fascist administration.  None of that is going to happen, while Republicans are in control of Congress.  They won’t stand up to Trump. They just enable him with their complicit silence.

 
This isn’t a legal issue, or a political one. It’s a moral imperative.  The crux is that we need political power, to ensure the moral imperative is achieved. We can no longer allow voter apathy to be accepted. We have no excuses. We should have near 100% registration and voter turn out. If we want our government to be a transparent and accountable body of citizens representing citizens, we must hold them accountable. We must be informed and we must vote in every election.  We must do the hard work of convincing our friends and family to do the same. 
 
We have to condemn the eye rolls at politics and campaigns. Being patriotic isn’t about waving a flag, as much as it’s about participating in the democracy that is the lifeblood of our country. Politics and campaigns are dirty and nasty, but the more citizens pay attention to the real issues, and not the character assassinations, we can push it to be cleaned up. We can reward honesty and transparency. We can expect our elected officials and candidates to answer hard questions and call them out when they duck those questions.
 
If we sit back and expect it to be done for us, it will, but it will look like the Handmaid’s Tale. If you haven’t seen it, it’s terrifying.

The Elected Official Accountability Act

I feel like we are seeing the need for our elected officials to be accountable. How do we make that happen?

They swear an oath, but I have yet to see elected officials be held accountable to the oath they swear.  I get that Nixon was held accountable, but that is how rare it is, to see that happen. Nixon is notorious, not because he was President, but because he was a President who was held accountable.

If elected officials were consistently held accountable, I would think Senator McConnell would no longer be in office.  He publicly stated that his top priority was to make President Obama a one term President. He publicly stated that his agenda was to make sure the President was not successful in anything, good bad or otherwise.  That is not what he was elected to do.  We don’t elect people to just obstruct progress, just because it comes from the other side of the aisle (or because you’re racist).  He has perverted the laws of Congress, to be spiteful, and prevent our country from moving forward.

I say no more. I say, people should run for office, and there should be better requirements for those who choose to run.  I say, if you are an elected official, you should be held to a standard.  We have previously held elected officials to a higher standard, and they self-policed. They held themselves to that standard.  In the past 10-15 years, this has eroded, as despots have learned they can funnel money and influence through campaign contributions. They can propose and stall legislation, not for the benefit of the people they serve, but the lobbying firms they will eventually retire to.  It’s fraught with conflict and impropriety, and it is on us citizens to demand it be corrected.

I am certain that political scholars can come up with a better, and more comprehensive list, but I want to get something down on “paper”. I want us to look at what should be passed, as laws, for those running and elected to public office. If you choose to serve in our government, you should be held to legal accountability, not just an intangible “should”. Breaking those laws should involve a thorough investigation, and if found guilty, jail and/or fines. Fines must include cost to taxpayers, including the investigation costs. There must be tangible repercussions, or our government will be filled with kleptocrats.

Candidates’ Requirements

  • All candidates are required to disclose the previous 10 years of tax returns
    • This includes all personal, business and charitable organizations
  • Complete a government competency exam
    • A basic application, with questions to the level of government office they are seeking
    • Nothing too hard, maybe 50 questions
    • Competency and basic knowledge should be a requirement for seeking public office
  • Clean record
    • Any criminal record should be reviewed by a bipartisan elected body, who decides whether the crimes deem them unfit for public office
      • DWI’s?
      • Domestic Abuse?
      • Fraud?
  • It must be illegal to accept campaign contributions from any entity that a representative may favor or disfavor by laws and regulations (end Citizens United)

Elected Officials (All)

  • Expand the oath to include (to the effect) “I will not knowingly lie or mislead the American public; my constituents”
  • Legislative representatives are prohibited from approving raises or setting their own salaries
    • It should be a co-equal branch of government
    • It should never be more than 2x the average salary in America
    • If the legislative body does not submit a timely budget or adds to deficit, this should preclude them from getting a raise
  • Legislative representatives are to be compensated during elected term, not after
    • Life-long pensions create an incentive to abuse public office
    • In no private employment, do spouses get life-long benefits of an employee. It’s insane that our government would use precious tax dollars to give unearned pensions to the spouses of elected officials. That money could go to veterans and the homeless population
  • No law may be passed that excludes representatives from following the laws of ordinary citizens
    • This includes actions like passing health care laws, with provisions that exclude representatives from being bound to it
  • Must disclose all tax payer expenses for office costs (remodels, furniture)
    • Any expenses not deemed necessary, or deemed lavish must be paid back personally
  • Must disclose all tax payer expenses for travel
    • Any expenses not deemed necessary, or deemed lavish must be paid back personally
  • It must be illegal to accept campaign contributions from any entity that a representative may influence by laws and regulations (end Citizens United)
  • Upon leaving public office, representatives may not seek employment with lobbying firms or any entity that contributed to their elected office, for 5 years (non-compete)

I would love a legislator to propose an actual bill to this effect. I want elected officials to be what our founding fathers envisioned they be.  I always thought they wanted elected officials to be us.  It was meant to be one of our patriotic duties.  Represent the people, and then return to private life.  It was never meant to be a career, although I don’t have a problem with that. If you want to spend your life representing people, I don’t think that is a problem, but I do think we need accountability, transparency and an assurance that our representatives aren’t conflicted with kickbacks and quid pro quo improprieties.

One of the critical aspects to ensuring our democracy can thrive and survive, must be that our elected representatives be legally bound to the service they are elected to hold. This is not a private job, at a private company, where they can set their own standard.  Our government must have a standard, and it should be one that the public can know and trust in. It should be one of transparency and one of a responsibility to the people, as opposed to their own benefit from holding office.

One Upstate New York Democrat’s View on Cythia Nixon and the Governor’s Race

I’m not sold yet. I have my disagreements with Cuomo, but he’s got a lot of good experience and has handled a lot of tough choices. I am proud of how involved he’s been in Puerto Rico’s recovery, while our President* threw paper towels and ran. Cuomo is also a very inclusive Governor. He’s capable and is a reasonable person, from what I’ve seen. Whether any of his opposition like it or not, The first paragraph on this website is full of verifiable, hard numbers of what he’s accomplished Governor Cuomo 2016 Accomplishments – ny.gov website

  • FY 2017 Budget, for the sixth consecutive year, keeps spending below 2 percent
  • Implementing the lowest middle class tax rate in 70 years.
  • Passing a $15 statewide minimum wage
  • 12 weeks of paid family leave
  • Reforms to combat the devastating effects of the Citizens United decision
  • Comprehensive plan to end New York’s heroin and opioid epidemic

There’s more after that, and that’s just for one year. He is getting stuff done, which is not easy in government bureaucracy.

I would like to see our Governor legalize marijuana with way less restriction medically, as well as recreationally. We are already growing hemp. We can help farmers and grow our economy. I would like New York state to decriminalize marijuana. People of color are disproportionately jailed for possession, when white people consume it at the same rate (ACLU – Report: The War on Marijuana in Black and White). I would like more help for upstate city schools, like Rochester, where I live. I want these schools to thrive. I want the kids, in this community, to thrive. I want the teachers and faculty to have the resources, facilities, and the pay they need and earn.

I want us to invest even more in renewable energies that make sense for our climate and region.  I want us to address homelessness in a progressive manner. Tiny homes, comprehensive mental and physical health care. Continuing education and job assistance.  We are stepping in the right direction, by starting to help some families, with community college costs. I think of it like ACA. At least we started something. We put something in place, where there was nothing, in an attempt to go in the right direction. Now let’s look at what is working and what can still be improved. Let’s just keep doing that, until we get to a place where we thrive. Other countries do it, and I think we can too.

I want us to crack down on abuse. Whether it be domestic abuse, animal abuse, human trafficking, wild animal trafficking, any kind of violence. We need to protect the victims and survivors, rather than the law being dedicated to the rights of the abusers and perpetrators. The ones abused end up losing rights, and that injustice has never been addressed.

To be fair, I want this (extensive) agenda of every elected official, and I want much more.

As for Nixon, I think she’s an intelligent woman, who’s got a good resume of activism and advocacy, and seems to be a person with a moral compass. I’m just not sure about starting at Governor. How much time has she really spent in NY towns and cities outside NYC area? Being Governor is a huge job.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m so happy so many citizens are running for elected office, all over the country. That is how our democracy will thrive. It’s just my personal philosophy on public service, that I wish people would start local, when deciding to run for elected office.

I get that “anyone can be President”. I also think we’ve seen, that it doesn’t mean anyone should be. Just because a person fits the legal qualifications (those could be better, by the by), that doesn’t mean they necessarily have the resume, and are qualified to handle the responsibilities of the job.

I wasn’t hired as CEO at my current job, because that would not match my qualifications (at all). I know it’s cliche, but it does follow. It’s not a 100% rule, and she may certainly transcend the norm. Some people just rock whatever they do. I didn’t agree with Schwarzenegger on LGBTQ matters, but he didn’t destroy California. Not like Trump is doing to our federal government.

Being an elected official, particularly in the executive branch, is a lot of crisis management, in addition to policy and agenda campaigning. It’s fighting over paying for staples, education, lifetime Congressional pensions (yes, I know that’s federal, not state level, just felt like slipping that in). It’s dealing with ensuring agencies respond during weather emergencies, and handling other such unpredictable occurrences, that derail agendas and budgets, constantly.  I don’t see how someone can just be in charge, of a whole state, until they have some experience at a local or regional level first. She may have other resume qualifications, that can make up for a lack of this type of experience. I don’t know enough yet, as I’m still learning about her, and how her candidacy compares to Cuomo’s.

She may well be the best candidate, but I’m definitely undecided right now. I am concerned about this leap, straight to Governor, and it does make me lean toward keeping the experience we have in Cuomo. We have more critical seats to overturn, in this election, and sometimes it’s not just about someone deciding to run for a specific seat. It’s also about which incumbents are measured, progressive, and not half bad.  There are some really bad elected officials out there, and while Cuomo may not be 100% perfect, I don’t think he’s so bad, that we need to run him out of town either.

We will never have perfect elected officials, and it’s folly to attempt that.  It’s also easy for our opponents to help fan the flames of our strongest candidates’ weaknesses, so that we end up with weaker candidates. They tried with Bernie, and people ate it up. Purist ideology politics will sink us.  The idea is that people represent people.  People are human, and the best we should expect from our candidates and officials is honesty and transparency.

I know some people can’t stand Cuomo, but I feel like that is a lot about the divisive “right has to hate left” attitude, drowning out reasonably acknowledging the merits of the other side. Yes, I acknowledge that left has to hate right also exists.  I acknowledge there are good Republican elected officials. I have voted for Republicans, and will again, if they are the better candidate.

I don’t think Cuomo is given a fair assessment. (Clinton, Pelosi, and Schumer too.) The hardest part about engaging in the political process, as a citizen, seems to be taking the time to identify good elected officials.  It’s easier to crap on the process, wash your hands of participating, and write them off as all bad and corrupt. It takes more time to keep up with your representatives. Know whether they keep their promises and are responsive, when you reach out to tell them how you want to be represented.  It takes work, but that is the real patriotic duty of every citizen.

We are supposed to pay attention to who is representing our interests, and who would like to represent us next. We must all hold our officials accountable to the oath they swear, to defend the Constitution. This includes inherent rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. I know for a fact, that there are really wonderful public servants, and some really great new candidates this year. A lot of principled, well-meaning citizens are representing us, or want to, in all levels of government. I should know. I used to work at the Board of Elections.

I get that it’s harsh to say, but unless Nixon really is that much better than Cuomo, I’d rather focus our campaign resources on other races, where there are real threats to our democracy sitting in those seats. In a healthy democracy, I hope to see debate and compromise across the aisle, as well as within each party. That can’t happen, when our government is being controlled and abused by one party.

When one side of the aisle is acting like kleptocratic, jingoistic, xenophobic, fascists, we can’t afford in-fighting. We must band together and defeat our common enemy first. Threats to our democracy. It must be stopped in its tracks, before we can utilize our democracy, to work out the rest.

Still. I’m not sure yet, on Nixon, for Governor. We’ll see.

No matter what, I absolutely LOVE her acting, activism, and advocacy.