Category Archives: Rant

Mandate This – Progress Marches On

There are a couple of things that I want to talk about – things I am tired of hearing already, and I want to explain why.

“It’s time to get over it. Trump won. We need to come together. After all, you didn’t see people lining up to protest when Obama won.”

First – It’s amazing how fast national amnesia works, isn’t it?!? And granted, that link won’t take you to large-scale street marches – for a couple of reasons. Namely that Obama won both the popular vote and the electoral college vote by decent margins. Also, his election inspired the Republicans in congress to protest his every move in unprecedented ways. We faced eight years of a do-nothing congress intent on blocking his every move, including shutting down the government. The people who were unhappy didn’t have to march, because their representatives protested for them. (And I have recently seen more than one acquaintance say that those representatives were performing the duties of their job faithfully by shutting down the government to block the majority party from writing or enacting legislation, so…)

Second – Obama did not fuel his campaign on open hate speech and anti-POC, anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQ*, anti-woman, anti-Muslim (or anti-any other religion) rhetoric. Trump did. Telling someone to “get in line” to support a president who ran a fear and hate filled campaign is… just no. You don’t get to tell people that they need to support their abuser. Ever. Nope.

Third – Obama was not endorsed by any hate groups.

Fourth – Have we all already forgotten that Trump, his supporters AND the GOP establishment ALL vowed in various ways to directly oppose a Clinton presidency if she won the election? From Trump telling his followers that the election was rigged and that her presidency would be illegitimate and hinting that he would not accept the outcome if she won, to his followers vowing to load their guns and march in the streets if she won (answering his call for second amendment solutions to a Clinton presidency), to the GOP establishment in the Senate openly vowing to block ANY nominee she put up for Supreme Court positions… But we’re supposed to get in line!?! Really?

“Give him a chance. He’s not really going to do the things he said he would.”

Give him a chance? Okay – Chance #1, VP pick: Mike Pence, a governor who actively helped legislate a reign of terror against LGBTQ* folk, women and public education in his home state.

“That’s not fair, that was before the election. That was just pandering to the base.”

Okay, so you admit that the GOP base is misogynistic, homophobic and transphobic. Let’s dive into the rest.

Chance #2 – Cabinet positions: Steve Bannon for Chief Strategist and Lead Council. That’d be a known, active leader in the alt-right/white nationalist movement. Super not okay ever. Extra super not okay when there is a wave of hate crimes sweeping the nation post-Trump “victory.”

Stop telling me to give him a chance. He’s had several and he has squandered them all. See above note regarding running a hate fueled campaign.

“Trump and the GOP received a mandate on their platform this election.”

No. Nope. Not even a little bit.

First – approximately 42% of eligible voters did not even cast a ballot.

Second – Hillary won the popular vote by around a million votes. Despite hearing from various people that CNN, TIME magazine, Snopes, politifact, etc. are all liberal patsies, you can click on their names to see how they are reporting this data because I’m pretty sure they’re actually the closest to neutral that we have.

Third – If you look at how close this election really was, and if you look at how people voted on issues down ballot, you’ll see a couple of things: First, we’re living in a fairly divided nation – BUT! It’s not as divided as we’ve been led to believe.

Americans actually agree on a ton of stuff. Poll after poll shows that the majority of Americans believe we are a stronger, better nation because of immigrants. We believe that LGBTQ* people should have the same rights as cis-gender, heterosexual folk, including the right to marry, to form families, to adopt, to receive services from public officials and private businesses open to the public, to use a restroom, etc. We believe that women should have access to safe, legal abortions, and birth control. We believe in universal access to free, quality education. We want universal access to affordable,quality health care. We want universal background checks on firearm purchases…

There are more issues that Americans agree on, like reinstating the Voting Rights Act, undoing Citizens United to try to get money further away from politics, or at least make it more transparent when someone is trying to buy an election, closing tax loopholes, penalizing folk who stash money in offshore accounts to avoid paying taxes, etc. We agree that we need to invest in infrastructure. We agree that we need to help people transition from obsolete jobs and industries into new fields. And that all Americans who are able and willing to work should have access to jobs that pay a living wage.

Those are the mandates that the government should take seriously. A functioning democracy should be looking at these issues, the issues that the vast majority of Americans agree on, and we should be moving forward on them. We should be making progress, not rolling it back. That’s our mandate.

And so, to the folk still upset about this election – stay angry, stay frustrated – BUT DON’T GIVE IN TO DESPAIR. We need you. All of you, to fight. To hold the line. To hold our elected officials accountable. To reach out to the white folk who keep voting against not only their own best interests, but also their stated goals. We need to reach the people who claim to be “socially liberal, but fiscally conservative” and ask them to join us in holding their elected officials accountable to the values that the majority of Americans agree on. That’s the common ground we need to work on, and it has nothing to do with hate.

*I’ve been asked if I’ll be posting an action list. Yes – but not tonight, I have a pile of other work I have to do. ALSO, I am working on compiling a list of resources for folk who have been directly threatened by a Trump presidency. I’m not entirely sure what form this directory will take, but I feel like that is also an important piece of action that I can and should take. I am hoping to have both posts up before Thanksgiving. If you have suggestions for either – please drop them in the comments! Thank you!

Leave a comment

Filed under Of Course I'm a Feminist, Rant

Upstanding one hug at a time

Today was a strange day.
First, one of my professors leaned on me. During class I could see that she was struggling. I waited after class until everyone else had left and said, “You okay? You look like you could use a hug.” She broke. I held her. We had an intense moment together while she told me about her family and her heritage and the ways this election not only puts her at risk, but also tells her pretty explicitly that there are millions of people who don’t value her life. We connected in a way we hadn’t before – she’s always kept herself aloof. I shared my fears, and my determination to be a better ally, to offer support and comfort and aid whenever I could, in whatever ways I could.
Then, I went to a shop on the hill to get some supplies before my next class. The woman behind the counter was Asian. We started talking and when I told her that I was upset and ashamed about the way the election went, she confessed her fears, and those of her children. She wept when I held her hand and looked her in the eye to tell her that I was glad she was here, that her children were here and to promise them that I was fighting for them, and would continue to fight for their safety and their right to be here. I assured her that she is not alone. We hugged.
There were other smaller events, smaller moments of connection, moments where I saw someone hurting and made my allyship explicit and told them in no uncertain terms that I had their back, that I would work and fight and do everything in my power to keep them and those they love from harm, and that I was not alone in this effort.
Friends, again, I ask you – stand up, speak up, reach out – protect those who are feeling abandoned by their nation, who feel threatened not just by this president, but by the people who voted him into office. Recognize their fear, and offer them support.
I see people asking what the big deal is, I’ve seen and heard people joking about deportation… This is not a joke, this is not a drill. During this campaign people were threatened in direct and explicit terms, and the person who threatened them is now our president-elect.
Feel that. What would you need in order to feel safe in that environment? Offer that. Exude that. Being an ally requires action, it requires compassion, it requires letting your guard down enough to see, and it requires owning that fixing this mess is our job.
Let’s get to work.
pretendhug

8 Comments

Filed under Naive idealism, Rant, Things that work

Do Not Go Softly Into This Alt Right

Yesterday I wrote about what I told my children regarding the results of this election. It focused on being upstanders, being active, vigilant allies for the people who Trump has vowed to harm. Then I talked a little about my extra role as an adult, that along with being a more active ally, I also needed to listen to the people who had voted for Trump and try to understand their fears, try to understand exactly what it is they voted for, what exactly do they mean when they say they want to Make America Great *AGAIN* – Because I think it’s that word again (along with all of the rhetoric that was hateful to everyone who is not an able-bodied, cisgender, heterosexual, upper-middle class, white male) that has a lot of us worried. I talked about wanting to try to move past this “us vs them” rift that has grown so wide in our country.

One of my readers, James, took issue with that last bit, and while I haven’t gone back this morning to read exactly what I wrote – his specific issue resonated strongly, especially after the day I had yesterday in school listening to the very real fears of my classmates, my instructors, my friends and my family. I fear that my words may have actually sounded too reconciliatory, so I wanted to clarify.

First, the complaint – That I made too strong an equivalence between Clinton supporters and Trump supporters, because Clinton supporters by and large have genuine things to fear from a Trump presidency (because we all have genuine things to fear from this next four years), while Trump supporters by and large did not have genuine things to fear from a Clinton presidency – most of their fears were based on lies. He also took issue with my claim that the Democrats were as much to blame for the “us/them” rift in our country as the Republicans, and cited the overwhelming and unprecedented Republican obstructionism throughout Obama’s term.

He is right on both counts.

Here is a brief list of real, substantiated fears that I heard yesterday – a list that made me realize that despite my attempts to reassure my children that we, personally, would be okay, has made me realize that no, we are also fighting for our lives.

  1. Repeal of the Affordable Care Act and the insurance coverage it provided to millions of people who could not previously have insurance due to pre-existing conditions.
  2. Reversal of Roe v Wade and further attacks on women’s reproductive rights at the same time that we elected the poster child for rape culture to the highest office in the land.
  3. Marriage equality and LGBTQ* rights.
  4. The safety and rights of Muslim people, middle eastern people, Latinx and Hispanic people, Black people, immigrants, refugees.
  5. Climate Change
  6. Further privatization of education, including additional public money going to private religious education, and the further encroachment of Christianity into public schools.
  7. Expansion of our current wars, erosion of diplomatic efforts in favor of military “solutions” in other conflicts.
  8. Erosion of the social safety net
  9. Reduction or elimination of the minimum wage

There is so much else that we were making progress on as a country – was it frustratingly slow, absolutely, but the arc of history was bending toward justice. And now, it feels like we have just slammed the brakes on all of that.

By comparison, what did people have to fear from a Clinton presidency? What did they have to lose?

White privilege. At least that’s what our liberal knee-jerk reaction seems to be. But the truth is, the majority of people who voted for trump are blue collar workers, they are rural farmers, they make their living from energy industries threatened by the progress I want to see our world make. And this is where the listening comes in – because we have to be willing to see and understand that for a lot of Trump supporters, their livelihoods really are being threatened. We have to hear that. THEN, we can maybe help them understand that it is not some shady, nefarious, liberal elite cabal that is doing them harm, but the actual policies of people like Donald Trump who lobby to re-write tax laws to benefit the rich at the expense of the poor, who lobby to re-write trade deals and labor laws to benefit corporate CEOs at the expense of American workers, people who fight against unions and labor protection, and undercut the social safety net, even while they fight for the right to keep paying below poverty wages… We cannot help them see the benefits of our idea of progress, if we do not acknowledge the reasons they fear it.

As to the claim that Democrats are not as responsible for the rift as Republicans… Personally, I agree. I’ve watched Obama try to reach across the aisle, try to find compromise, try to moderate himself, moving from the center to ever more right (though this last year of “give no fucks” Obama has been a welcome tack back to the leftish). I’ve heard both Hillary Clinton and President Obama call for us to come together, to heal, to find common ground and ways to work together to move the nation forward – despite the divisive rhetoric spouted by Trump. I’ve watched the Republicans in office engage in unprecedented levels of obstructionism, culminating in them leaving a supreme court seat vacant for the better part of a year rather than even consider a well-regarded centrist judge proposed by Obama and vow to continue to block literally any nominee proposed by Clinton should she win. I have seen Democrats get elected because they tout their ability to reach across the aisle at the same time I have seen Republicans be denied office for the same thing, while their opponent takes the nomination, and the seat, by promising to refuse compromise.

Our democracy is broken. And that, I think was the message we heard in this election. Whether you see it in the popularity of Bernie Sanders, an actual leftist, or the win of Donald Trump – a non-Republican who won on a promise of #HulkSmash.

I think this is what I was struggling with yesterday – because I’ve been so incredibly frustrated the systematic breaking down of our government during Obama’s tenure – the way that Republicans have refused to do their jobs, like two-year-olds having a tantrum. I’ve seen the government shutdowns over things like women’s rights, gay rights, etc. I’ve seen the refusal to engage on issues not only of deep importance to the American people, but also issues of popular consensus – things like universal background checks for gun purchases. I’ve seen it – and it grossed me out.

But now… Now we have Trump, who campaigned on a platform of hate and fear. Who campaigned on a platform of us and them. Who made fascist style threats against his political opponent, threatening to lock her up. Who campaigned on promises of removing first amendment rights from journalists who dared to point out his flaws or challenge him in any way. The electoral college has elected a man who was endorsed by only two living world leaders – Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-Il.

Meanwhile, the popular vote actually asked for Clinton. Meanwhile, no one seems to be talking about investigating the many reported irregularities that occurred this election, including Hillary Clinton’s name being misspelled on ballots to read “Hilliary” creating a near subliminal reinforcement of Trump’s “She’s a liar” rhetoric. No one seems to want to figure out how many voters were swayed by the strange last-minute shout of “there are more emails!” followed only after a few million votes were cast by, “never mind, nothing to see here.” No one seems to want to examine how many voters were disenfranchised by the rush to re-write voter ID laws after the Voting Rights Act was gutted, or how many were illegally turned away from the polls by poll workers who either didn’t understand their state’s new laws, or acted from actual malice.

The race has been conceded – but we cannot surrender!

I’m grappling with what that means – what that looks like.

Here in Colorado, it means continuing our state’s march toward progress. Continuing to work for a greener future. Continuing to be more inclusive of more people, while defending their basic human rights, including the right to bodily autonomy and the right to make their own decisions about their health care.

As a nation, we have to require that our elected representatives do what I told my children to do – defend those who cannot defend themselves, stand up for those people are at risk of harm from a Trump presidency, uphold and defend the civil liberties of the people Trump has threatened, hold the line on health care, refuse to allow the ACA to be repealed unless a true alternative is proposed that will ensure health care coverage for all the Americans who are currently insured – and hopefully expand that access to even more people. Hold the line on women’s reproductive rights, refuse to back down. Hold the line on LGBTQ rights. Hold the line on climate policy and green energy. But it’s not enough – when I say we have to expand rights and access, we have to remember why people voted for Trump – and we have to include those people in our plans too. We have to expand access to training programs to help people move from dying industries to thriving industries. We have to invest in infrastructure to assist businesses – and create jobs, but we have to do it consciously.

We cannot go backwards. We might be able to survive a halt in progress, but we cannot allow a reversal of all that we have worked for and created. We cannot turn our backs on our children’s futures.

And even as I type this, I can hear the voices of my Republican readers, of my middle of the road readers, saying, “So, basically you’re asking Democrats to engage in the same tactics that made you so mad at the Republican party?” And that is what I’ve been struggling with – because I want a working government. I want us to make progress as a nation. I want the USA to become a leader in the world again for something beyond most “boots on the ground,” most people imprisoned and most gun deaths per capita. I’d love to see my nation become a leader in human rights, in environmental policy and progress, in education, in health care, in the eradication of poverty.

But that’s not what Trump has promised. That’s not what is on the table. And we cannot be complicit to hate, to intolerance, to the destruction of democratic values and systems.

What keeps ringing through my head as I type this is, “Democracy is dead, long live Democracy.”

The system is broken, in some way, for just about everyone. For the last eight years we have watched the Republican party deliberately and intentionally break it more, all the while shouting, “look, see, it doesn’t work, we should tear it down.” So is it really any surprise that the candidate their base nominated won on an outsider promise to smash the system and rebuild it in his image? But have you seen his image?

So no, I will not go quietly into this Alt Right. I will work with whatever means I have, whatever tools I can use to keep us from going backwards. I will work to elect public officials who will vow to hold the line on the progress we have made and to do what they can to push for more where and when they can. If that looks like obstructionism, if that looks like divisiveness, if that looks like the death of democracy… I would rather that than to have historians look back at this election and say, “See there, children, that is how fascism begins, that is how it starts – with fear and hate, and with people who knew better giving in to it in the name of healing and reconciliation.” Because we do know better. We have seen this play out before – and we know we cannot give in.

We are the rebellion.

irebel

Love trumps hate.

 

1 Comment

Filed under Naive idealism, Of Course I'm a Feminist, Rant

What I told my children

A few folk have asked me what I told my children this morning, so I thought I’d repeat it here, because it seems like something perhaps we all need to hear, and say, and do.

This morning when I woke up, my Youngin was already awake. She was listening to the radio and making angry signs in her room. I walked in and sat down next to her and she leaned into me and we cried together for a minute.

I told her I was sorry, so very, very sorry.

Then I wiped her tears, and mine, and took a deep breath and told her that it was okay to be angry, it was okay to be upset and scared and frustrated and disappointed. It was okay to have all of those feelings.

BUT.

Then I told her that we, personally, were going to be okay. The world was not going to change that much for us. We are not the people Trump has targeted in his speeches and at his rallies.

BUT.

That does not mean we can exhale and relax. The fact that we do not have targets on our backs does not make this any less of a disaster for our nation. And this is a disaster.

I reminded her of the Mr. Rogers Meme that tells people in disasters to look for helpers, and I told her that we HAD TO be the helpers this time. Because we are “safe,” because we are going to be “okay” we have to stand up, we have to use our voices and our power to help the people who have been targeted, who are not safe, who Trump promised will not be okay.

I told her that today was going to be a really hard, really scary day for a lot of her friends, and that they were going to need her. More than ever. I reminded her what it means to be an ally, that it is not an identity, it is action – and that today, and the next four years, that was our job. To be there, to hold the lines, to interrupt hate speech, to disrupt violence. I reminded her of Michelle Obama’s words – when someone goes low, our job is to go high. We cannot give in to fear, or let it turn into hate.

an-ally-is

I told her that her job was to be there for her friends. To hug them, to reassure them, and to work for their safety and well being. She’s already such a strong “upstander,” but she’s been seeing and living the Trump Effect. I told her it would likely get worse and that we would need to be ever more vigilant, and ever more ready to support and defend people, to keep them safe. I reminded her of her adult allies in her school, the people she could turn to if she saw or heard violence directed at another student – or at herself, because after all we just elected a sexual predator for president.

Trump held up a mirror for me and showed me the truth of what my LGBTQ friends, my Latinx friends, my Black friends, my Muslim friends, my immigrant friends, my poor friends, my sick friends – have all been saying for YEARS. Yes – it is this bad. We, allies, cannot bury our heads in the sand anymore. Not for one more second. We need to take a long, hard look in this mirror and recognize our part in this, and then we need to get to work.

upstander

I reminded her of her classmate who, after their school’s mock election, said, “I voted for Trump.” and then looked around the room at all of his Latinx classmates and said with sincere feeling, “But don’t worry. I also asked God not to let him deport anyone.” Because kids are not born hating, or fearing. They are taught that. Our job is to teach them love. Our job is to reach out to those people who voted for Trump, but prayed that he wouldn’t be allowed to do the things he said he would do, and talk to them. Compassionately. We need to figure out what they were voting for – or against – if it wasn’t the hate we all heard.

And then I told her that my job, as an adult, as someone who is safe, is to do that work – the work of reaching out, of listening to people who voted for Trump, of hearing them. Because last night I fell asleep thinking about what I needed to do to protect the people he promised to harm, I fell asleep in a pit of “what the actual fuck?” But when I woke up, I realized that if this election had gone the other way, half of America would have felt the same existential dread that I feel right now. Half of America was more scared of Hillary Clinton than of an openly misogynistic, racist, xenophobic, narcissistic bully. No matter which way you slice it, half of America believes that America is going down the drain, and taking them with it. Half of America feels left out, shut out, torn down.

We truly are a nation divided.

As an adult, it is my job to break down THAT WALL. That wall that the media has helped to build, that the Democratic Party and the Republican Party have helped build, that all of this us and them rhetoric has helped build. There is no us and them – we’re all in this boat together, so we’ve got to stop shouting and start listening.

We have got to appeal to our better angels.

We have got to rise above.

As Katie Goodman would say, we have got to unfuck this up.

5 Comments

Filed under Naive idealism, Of Course I'm a Feminist, Rant, Things that work

Be a helper

Hi everyone. It’s been a LONG time since I’ve posted. I’ve missed you. Oddly I’ve gotten quite a few new fans/followers/folk since my last long ago post, so – hi new folk. Welcome to my brain.

So… It looks like my country elected a racist, sexist, xenophobic, narcissist for president. Sorry about that.

No really. I am so fucking sorry. I am beside myself.

I am up typing this because I have to figure out what to do now. I’m unprepared for this. I mean – I know my country isn’t post-racial, or post-feminist, or even very progressive, but I didn’t realize just how much anger and hate and fear there was. I underestimated the backlash.

I’ll admit – genuine thoughts about just running away went through my mind, and even came out of my mouth. But then… I remembered, I’m uncomfortably safe. I’m a white middle classish person. Yes, I’m a woman and sexual assault just became openly acceptable at the same time that a candidate who has sworn to take away my reproductive rights was elected president, but honestly – those are battles I’ve been fighting for decades – I’ll just have to fight them more strategically now.

Meanwhile, there are loads of other people who are really, truly screwed. Millions of lives have just been made worse, millions of families have been put at risk. This, what just happened, is a true disaster.

As I thought about what that meant, what that looks like, I remembered this meme that pops up every time there is a natural disaster, or another mass shooting, or a large-scale tragedy.

look-for-the-helpers

Look for the helpers.

But… Here’s the thing – I can’t look for the helpers this time. This time – I have to be the helper. This is on me.

Why? Because white people, as a group, voted for Trump. White women abandoned Hillary and voted for Trump. This mess – this is our mess, my mess. Sure, I voted blue, and I urged everyone I knew to do the same. I wore my pantsuit and proudly proclaimed that I was #WithHer, but… it wasn’t enough. And now – we need to work together to keep this garbage fire from spreading and hurting people.

People keep saying, “it’ll all be okay.” But here’s the thing – we’ve elected a president who has promised, on numerous occasions, that life will not be okay for Muslims, Latinx folk, LGBTQ folk, immigrants, refugees, women, people with pre-existing medical conditions, poor people… Which means empty platitudes are not going to cut it.

White people – we have got to get our collective shit together. We have got to rise up and listen to our better angels. We cannot simply say, “it’s going to be okay.” We have to work to make it okay. We have to hold the lines of progress that we have made in this country. We have to reach out to our community members who are hurting, who are scared, who are threatened and we have to actively support them.

This is on us.

I struggled with what I was going to tell my kids tomorrow. But this is it.

I’m going to tell them to bring their A-game tomorrow, and every day after, because life for us is going to continue being okay. They’re going to continue to have a house and clothes and food on the table, and a family that no government organization can tear apart. But their friends, their friends are going to need them. They are going to need their strength, their love, and sometimes their voice.

My friends are going to need the same. So are strangers I’ve never met who will be facing an amplified Trump Effect. I cannot sit this one out. It is time to be vigilant, to be aware, and to step up and be a helper.

If you’ve ever called yourself an ally before – this is your rally cry. This is the moment. This is where you turn your allyship into action and prove your mettle. It’s time to suit up and get to work.

3 Comments

Filed under Naive idealism, Rant, Things that work

A case for better justice

I just want to leave a couple of things here and let you all connect some dots and invite you all to leave your thoughts in the comments.

I want to encourage everyone to read and listen and discuss with a mind open to the possibility of solutions, the possibility of things getting better.

I hear so much, too much, defeatism lately. Too much grumbling that it’s all for show, there’s nothing we can do, everything is broken and we’re all going down.

And then, I see things like I’m about to share and I think… Maybe there is hope. And then I see something else and I think, nope, we should all just jump now.

Tonight I want to push for hope. But first, I rant. Hard.

So, to begin:

And then, the news that one of Colorado’s for-profit prisons is facing a budget shortfall because of lower incarceration rates! (On the one hand, yay! On the other hand – Hell no, voters should not be asked to plug that ugly for-profit hole, not with our tax dollars, and not with incarcerated bodies.) You want to know who could really, really use an extra $3 million in taxpayer dollars right now, Colorado’s rural schools!

Then this article crops up about how the Netherlands has to close more prisons because they just don’t have enough criminals, they can’t even import other nation’s prisoners fast enough to keep their prisons open. (The original article I read today, which I can’t find now, also talked about their restorative/rehabilitative/less punitive style of justice.)

And amidst it all, this story about a woman who was appointed to the Denver school board during an unusual emergency meeting that broke a few rules, and who was then outed as having a criminal record, and therefore being unfit to serve.

But – here’s the thing about that criminal record – first, these are not felony convictions – so she is not barred from serving on those grounds. Did she lie to the public about the full extent of her record – yes, BUT… I can understand her fear. It sounds like the people on the board who appointed her had access to her full records and still felt she was qualified. Was it a bad PR move to appoint her using shady methods, and not disclose this/get out in front of it – absolutely, but does any of this make her unfit to serve?

I have to say, when I look at my district, this is almost exactly the kind of woman I would actively want on my school board – a woman who understands that parenting in this system is NOT EASY. That poor parents are trapped under a rock, on top of a hard place and in our current bootstrapping times, there are no helping hands coming to anyone’s rescue. A person who understand the challenges facing so many of our students and their parents as they try to navigate the many disparate systems working to keep them in their place.

I don’t know any more than the articles I linked to say, I haven’t dug deeper, I don’t feel like I need to. I can picture it. There you are, single mom, three kids, working to try to keep them fed and clothed and sheltered, doing everything you can to scrape by. Your childcare provider calls in sick, or you can’t afford the bill just yet because the car broke down, or a kid got sick, or your refrigerator broke, or a million other possible things that mean the difference between surviving and sinking… You have to go to work or you’ll lose your job, because – America! If you lose your job, you really will sink. So, even though it kills you, even though you know it’s a bad idea, even though you are terrified that you are making the biggest mistake of your life, you give your oldest child, a 7 year old, “The Talk” – The do not answer the door, do not answer the phone, call me only if there is an absolute emergency, stay inside, keep your siblings inside, I’ll be home in a few hours… And you leave, and you lock the door, and you pray to every god you believe in, because you have a better chance of getting help from above than you do from your own community or country.

And then, for whatever reason, one of your kids dials 911, and the cops come, and you are found out. And it’s game over. Now you’re a criminal. And you have to take parenting classes – but you know how to parent, you know what those kids need, you just can’t access it because you are poor in America and instead of offering you some help all you hear is a chorus of voices shouting at you that, “you should have…” but it’s too late for should haves, you’re here now, and you’re drowning and the state just added one more weight to your already sinking ship.

But you carry it. You don’t know how, but you do. And your kids survive, and you survive, and you work even harder, harder than any sanctimonious, middle class, silver spoon sucking, judgmental, finger-pointing, competitive parenting trophy winner could ever imagine. You not only pull yourself up by your bootstraps – first you grow the fucking cotton, harvest the cotton, process the cotton, spin the goddamn thread from the cotton, dye the thread and weave your very own bootstraps. THEN, you start to pull yourself up. Little by little. Until one day, you are hailed as a model community member, an active parent who “feels like she’s been on the board forever” even though you haven’t, you’ve just been volunteering, supporting, fundraising, trying to participate.

You’ve “made it.” The American Fucking Dream.

Except, of course, once upon a time, you were poor, and you were trapped between a bad choice and a worse choice, and you did the math and you thought you chose the better of the terrible choices, but you were wrong and now… Now everything you’ve worked for is taken away and you are called unfit.

You know what’s unfit – this fucking society.

This society that calls itself prolife and then abandons poor families at the first opportunity. This society that threatens children with starvation if they can’t keep their grades up. This society that criminalizes poverty in a million ways, but does nothing to alleviate it. This society that tells mothers they must be there for their children 24-7, but refuses to offer free childcare, guaranteed parental leave, living wages, or material support for single or working poor parents. This society that criminalizes and punishes women, mothers, for failing to live up to impossibly high standards without so much as a balancing pole to help them as they walk the tightrope of ever changing rules and regulations. This society that thinks the real problem is that poor people just don’t know how to parent, because calling poor people lazy and unfit is easier than looking in the mirror and seeing our own complicity staring back at us.

So yes, I’m glad incarceration rates are down in Colorado. I hope they stay that way, and I hope all the money we used to spend on prisons starts going to schools where it can be used to make lives better rather than harder. And I’m glad there are prosecutors out there like Adam Foss, and I hope he inspires more prosecutors to do better and to work harder at creating positive outcomes, for boys – AND for women and girls. And I hope that in the future we can look at a woman who was stuck between a bad choice and a terrible choice and have compassion rather than judgement. I hope we can listen to her speak and try to understand her story before we call her unfit for duty and shackle her to past mistakes made in dark and desperate moments that most of us will never have to grapple with.

I hope that in the future we can accept that we have all made mistakes, we’ve all taken risks, we’ve all done things we knew we shouldn’t do – and many of us, most of us, got away with it. Should we really hold the ones who got caught to a different standard than we hold ourselves? Should we really say people who got caught are incapable of learning, growing and doing better? Should we really brand them with their worst moment and never let them move past it?

Or should we look for a better way? Should we applaud growth and change and value those tough experiences and the lessons they taught?

I’ve been grappling with the vision of justice that I want to see in the world for a while now. Trying to find the words to express it, to explain it. It doesn’t involve bars or razor wire or guards with guns. It involves learning and healing and letting go and growing and supporting – for all parties involved. I thought it was just a dream, an impossible dream, for so long. Then I read a short story in this book, The Feminist Utopia, that laid it all out and made me cry and wish and nod my head yes, yes, please yes. And I stopped just following Lauren Chief Elk on twitter and started actually listening, really listening to what she was saying, and found myself nodding and crying and wishing, yes, yes, please yes.

There is a way, there are many ways, to achieve a place where instead of locking bodies up and criminalizing human frailty, we work to restore and heal and support each other.

Incarceration is not the only answer, it’s not even the best answer. It’s time for change. Let the prisons close, give the jobs and the money to services that need it more. We already know school is more cost effective than jail, so let’s start divesting. Let’s just… step away and reprioritize. We can do it. But we have to show up – to the polls, to the protests, to the rallies and the petition drives.

We must be present to win.

 

2 Comments

Filed under Of Course I'm a Feminist, Rant

A question for the GOP mainstream

What happens if you enact laws that say people receiving government assistance (SNAP benefits, subsidized health care, subsidized child care, housing assistance, etc.) have to be employed in order to receive those benefits AND simultaneously repeal the minimum wage effectively telling employers that they can pay people as little as possible?

These two ideas are, as far as I can tell, mainstream thoughts within the GOP party. The first is being enacted to varying degrees in a number of GOP states. The second is being discussed loudly by many GOP politicians, especially in response to calls for a higher minimum wage.

But what actually happens if we do both at the same time – tell people that they MUST have a job in order to get help, and tell employers that they don’t really have to pay their employees if they can get them to work for less?

Keep in mind that current minimum wage already provides a poverty level income to anyone earning it while trying to keep even one other single family member afloat.

Now imagine eliminating that wage requirement while telling people they must be employed – that means that the government is blackmailing people into working for even less. If they strike in protest of low wages that will not keep their family alive – does that mean they’re not working and thus the benefits that were helping them bridge the gap are cut off? (Not that they’d be able to strike effectively anyway since the GOP is also working hard to eliminate unions…) Given the reality that government programs have already seen significant cuts and many people receiving government assistance are already working multiple jobs in addition to receiving benefits, and are still struggling to make ends meet… what does this really mean? What does this really look like?

Yes, I can see where businesses will be able to make more money, and potentially even employ more people (I mean, hey, if you don’t have to pay them, why not hire them? That’s the line I’ve heard from the GOP side – eliminating the minimum wage will eliminate unemployment! Everyone can work, if no one has to pay them!) But… Is that really solving the problem we’re trying to solve? Do we just want everyone to have a job, any job, for any pay? Or do we want people to have a job that supports them and their families? Do we want them to have jobs that pay for the basic necessities of life: Food, clothing, shelter, education, health care, safe drinking water… Do we want employers to pay their employees enough that people with full time jobs don’t need to ask for or rely on government assistance to scrape by?

If we eliminate the minimum wage, rather than raising it, does anyone actually think that will lower people’s dependence on government assistance? Especially if having a job is a requirement for receiving assistance? Am I the only one who sees this as blackmailing people into accepting sub-par wages and becoming MORE reliant on government aid rather than less? Am I the only one who sees this as a serious step toward creating a government subsidized permanent serf class?

And where will the funds come from to pay for the increased need for government services? Obviously individuals receiving government assistance won’t have any money left over to pay taxes, and most of the large corporations have found enough loopholes, tax breaks and tax credits to avoid paying taxes – many actually receive tax refunds each year. So, companies like Walmart, McDonalds, Kraft foods, Amazon, etc. not only won’t have to pay their employees, they also won’t be paying tax dollars into the government relief pool. They are completely off the hook for the responsibility of ensuring their employee’s livelihoods.

Who does this policy help then? Shareholders, CEOs and other top executives who see extra company profits turned into bonus checks…

Who does this hurt? Pretty much everyone else. The poor who get poorer, the middle class who have to take up the extra tax burden because no one else is…

And why is THIS never called “income redistribution” or “class warfare” or “theft at the point of a gun” or and of the other terms used when the poor and middle class ask wealthy America to start paying back into the pot? Why is it okay for people to work 40+ hours a week and NOT be guaranteed a living wage? How is that not theft – of labor, of energy, of time? In the “richest nation in the world” or so we’re told, how is it that we’re okay with asking more and more people to work harder and longer for decreased pay and benefits rather than insisting that companies seeing record-breaking profits pay their employees livable wages?

If we’re not going to raise the minimum wage to match increases in cost of living, and we’re not going to enact price controls on essentials like medicine, housing, food, transportation, etc. while simultaneously blackmailing people into working for less than current minimum wage (and gutting the government relief programs that these workers would need to survive…) I don’t see how this results in anything other than the needless pain, suffering and degradation of American workers. It’s not enough to give people jobs, we have to insist on jobs that guarantee them a viable standard of living.

I think at the end of the day, what I’m  most confused about is why many members of the GOP elite seem to want to compete with “developing” nations like China and India (and really, we’re looking up to Vladimir Putin now!?!) in a race to the bottom in terms of worker rights, human rights, environmental action, etc. instead of competing with other “developed” nations like Sweden, Finland, Austria, New Zealand, Switzerland, etc. to raise the standard of living for everyone from the bottom to the top.

3 Comments

Filed under Rant