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Archive for January, 2017

These last few weeks – no, really, months – have been very challenging for me. I consider myself a moderate liberal. The progressive side believes in true equality for everyone: a human is a human is a human, and all us humans have the same basic rights. Things like the right to be free, to the pursuit of life and liberty and happiness, to free speech and open peaceful assembly; you know, those things put forth in the USA’s founding documents. [1] In fact, I take those rights to also include a basic standard of living for all, even the unemployed and disabled.

The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights[2], drafted in the aftermath of WWII and proclaimed in 1948, lays out an international groundwork I find even more compelling. Especially Article 25. Take a minute and really look at it.

(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

Now think about it. A bunch of people from all over the world, all sorts of cultures and backgrounds and religions and ethnicities, came together to craft this document, and said there should be a security net for those disadvantaged among us, and that mothers and children deserved special protection. In 1948. That’s sixty-nine years ago. And the United States is a signatory. We’re also signatories to the Declaration’s sister documents that were drafted in 1954: the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. We, as a people via our duly elected representatives, agreed to these documents and their intent.

 

maimonides1

 

So why is it we, in the current age, as a people, duly elected representatives that seem to want to throw all that out the window? So far, we – and I do mean the collective we, because it’s our fault as voters that we’re in this situation – have stopped funding NGO’s that provide basic healthcare services to millions across the globe just because there might be some birth control and abortions involved.[3] Why are we even discussing this in the 21st Century, when it’s been clearly shown repeatedly that greater control over reproductive health leads to better lives in general (and a significant reduction in abortions – what’s that, “pro-lifers”…)? Why does somebody in a big house thousands of miles away have more say over a woman’s body than she does?

We’ve also said it’s okay to build more oil pipelines, while “expediting” environmental impact studies, and gagging the Environmental Protection Agency.[4] Yeah, toxic sludge, poisoned water, and smog alerts are something I really miss from my childhood. Hey, guys – this is the only planet we have. And we are certainly capable of living on her a whole lot more intelligently. You wanna make money, fine. There’s a shit-ton of it available in advancing our clean energy technologies. Just ask California.[5]

And then there’s our latest debacle: a nation formed of immigrants and refugees has banned entry of immigrants and refugees trying to escape horrific circumstances. We’ve allowed fear and anger and hate to fuel a prejudice that is largely unfounded, and inarguably inhumane. Most of these people have already gone through some of the toughest background checks available.[6] Most of them literally have no where else to go because it means certain death to return “home.” Our small-minded leaders and their “America First” ideology are causing a human rights crisis of epic proportions. For all their purported “Christian” ethics, they seem to have forgotten something Christ Himself said:

Matthew 25:40   King James Version (KJV)

40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.[7]

jan_wijnants_-_parable_of_the_good_samaritan

Jan Wijnants (1632–1684) “Parable of the Good Samaritan” 1670 oil on canvas 127 × 137 cm (50 × 53.9 in) Hermitage Museum

 

There are three things that humans must have to survive. The first is air. Without air, we are dead in minutes. The second is water. Without that blessed liquid, we are dead in days. The third is food. One must take in sustenance to fuel the body, or we are dead in weeks. Deliberately depriving someone of any of these is murder. You saw that right: MURDER. If you are one of those people that think people living in disadvantaged areas where food, water, and even clean air are luxuries just need to “pull themselves up by the bootstraps,” then you are complicit to murder when they die. Because there are no bootstraps – there are no boots. Sometimes there are not even feet.

We in the USA live in the richest, most technologically advanced nation on the planet. We have more than enough money and resources to give everyone of our people a basic standard of living, and help him or her become a more productive member of society. I would rather my tax dollars go to feeding a hungry family, or educating disadvantaged youth, or making sure even the most poor among us have decent health care, than feed our already-overwhelming military machine, offer up corporate subsidies to industries already making billions of dollars, or support a hateful rhetoric of discrimination.

I believe in giving people a hand up when they’ve fallen. I believe that helping one person is helping us all. As the old saying goes, a rising tide lifts all boats. Giving tax cuts to the rich and corporations while gutting the social services that help the least among us only causes even more boats to sink. It’s more than hurtful and hateful, it’s shortsighted. Sure, you might have a pristine view and clear sailing for your yacht for a while, but eventually you’ll need repairs. And without the rest of us to support you with our backs and our money, where will you be?

Contrary to what some of you might be thinking, I have no problem with people being rich. My problem is with the rich that got there and stay there at the expense of others. Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg are just some examples of wealthy people who use their money for the good of all. They’re still rich, despite giving away millions – even BILLIONS – to charitable causes. They can still have their fancy lifestyle, while people all over the world have better access to clean water, education, and health care because of them. The more balance we can bring to the world, the less anger and hate there will be.

There was a part of me that really wanted to stop writing about politics. I’m sure there are those of you out there who would much rather read about my latest cat adventures, the silly things I do to avoid writing, and my sometimes-humorous battle with depression. But I just couldn’t sit back and be silent. Not when we in the arts and the press are told to just shut up, that we don’t have a right to speak our opinions.[8]

Not just no, or hell no, but FUCKING HELL NO!!!

Read the Bill of Rights, asshole. Free speech, freedom of the press, freedom to peacefully assemble, all guaranteed right there in a 230 year old document you, as a member of this great republic, agreed to uphold. Don’t like what I have to say, feel free to take a hike and find somebody more appealing to your sensibilities. I’m not going to hold my tongue when basic human rights are threatened by a narcissistic bag of wind with delusions of god-hood and his sycophantic hound dogs. Don’t like seeing that said about our president? I don’t like saying it. But, believe me, I’d much rather be on the other side of all this going “Damn. Sorry. I was wrong.” than “See, I told you so.”

 

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[1] https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/bill-of-rights-transcript

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_Declaration_of_Human_Rights

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jan/23/trump-abortion-gag-rule-international-ngo-funding

[4] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jan/24/epa-department-agriculture-social-media-gag-order-trump

[5] http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/experts-say-california-s-environmental-polices-are-bellwether-economic-growth-n631841

[6] https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/01/29/us/refugee-vetting-process.html?_r=0

[7] https://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/Matthew-25-40/

[8] http://www.themarysue.com/meryl-streep-globes-speech/

http://money.cnn.com/2017/01/27/media/steve-bannon-media-reaction/

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So It Begins…

REALITY TV…

celebrity-apprentice

 

SURREALITY TV…

trump-inauguration

 

I hope for the sake of us all he does a good job. Much as I’d hate to see that nauseating windbag succeed, his failure – ANY President’s failure – would have disastrous affect on the USA.

 

But it’s up to us to hold him and our equally belligerent GOP-controlled Congress to account. Write, email, call, march – whatever works for you. Be civil, be informed, be dedicated. Most of all, BE INVOLVED. Because this is what happens when you aren’t.

 

House of Representatives: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

US Senate: https://www.senate.gov/

The White House: https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact

 

 

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As I write this, the U.S. is commemorating the birthday and works of the civil rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr. A Baptist minister and advocate of peaceful protests, he drove a generation of positive change toward the betterment of all.

He was assassinated on April 4, 1968 while standing on the balcony of his hotel room in Memphis, Tennessee.

Thinking of Dr. King’s legacy and how it has affected my life led me into the rabbit hole that is my mind, and reminded me of others who have fought for civil rights. Each of them has impacted me in some way, mostly indirectly, but I’m grateful for their work none-the-less.

 

Mohandas Gandhi led the march toward India’s independence from Britain. He was arguably the originator of large-scale nonviolent civil disobedience, a primary tactic of civil rights protests since his time. He campaigned for women’s rights, easing poverty, and ending the caste known as untouchables, among his other causes.

He was assassinated on January 30, 1948 on his way to a prayer meeting.

The first openly gay person to be elected in California, Harvey Milk became the face of the LGTBQ movement in the state and beyond. As a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, he spearheaded the passage of a stringent gay rights ordinance for the city. He also advocated for better child-care facilities, free public transportation, and a civilian commission to oversee police.

He was assassinated, along with San Francisco Mayor George Moscone, at City Hall on November 27, 1978.

In a world where children, minorities, and women often have no voice, Malala Yousafzai has shown us all what confident grace can really look like. An advocate for universal education and women’s rights, she began a blog about her life under the Taliban when she was a pre-teen.

On October 9, 2012 at the age of 15 she was on her school bus when it was boarded by gunmen. She was shot in the head. Miraculously she survived, and spurred on an international movement for her causes, in addition to becoming the youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize recipient.

All of these people have peacefully campaigned for civil rights issues. They have led by example, maintained positive messages, and promoted the best ideals humanity has to offer. And they all were shot.

What’s wrong with this picture?

 

 

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It’s 2:30 in the morning. You’re at your desk, laying waste to the orcs and skeletons and zombies of your latest computer game. The cats are each in their respective office perches nearby. Your husband is supposedly watching videos on the laptop in the living room, but you can hear the occasional snort as he nods off more often than not. Just another quiet night in the ‘burbs, enjoying your middle-class life.

The banging on the front door, followed quickly by a rapid, incessant ringing of the bell, cuts through the silence like a bomb going off. Instantly awake, the Marine sergeant on the couch lets loose with his best DI[1] voice, demanding identification. There is no response. Now on his feet and approaching the door, your husband ups the ante with a repeated demand that could probably be heard on the other side of town. Again, no response. And a quick look through the peep-hole reveals only the back of somebody’s head. What do you do?

 

In our case, I start dialing 911, while my husband fetches his shotgun. Any of our friends and family know they can show up at our house or call us at any time of the day or night if they need help. They also know better than to ignore a demand for identification or turn their back to the door. We both retreat to the central hallway, where we’re away from windows and doors, but able to see just about all of them. There’s been an uptick in SoCal of what cops call knock-knock burglaries: the suspects knock first to see if someone is home. If there’s no answer, they look for a way in, usually through the back yard or garage. There have been occasions when the door was answered that the suspects then forced their way in and held the occupants hostage while ransacking the house. Given that the houses on both sides of us have been burglarized in the last few years, and there was a drive-by shooting just down the block (thankfully, no injuries) a couple summers ago, we don’t take chances around here.

And it’s not like we live in a bad area. We’re in a typical middle-class housing tract built in the ‘80s. Decent cars are parked out front, and kids play in their yards. Aside from the occasional drunken karaoke party and the thumpity-bump stereo booming street racer that cruises around, it’s pretty tame here. When we first moved in, the whole neighborhood was like something out of Better Homes & Gardens: pristine green lawns, freshly painted eaves, and smiling people. Then came the real estate crash and the Great Recession, and nearly a third of the houses around us ended up sold for cheap, or rented out. That’s when things started to change. It is very subtle, but growing more noticeable each day. When people get tired, beat down, and angry, so do their neighborhoods.

 

I’ve been lucky in that I haven’t had to experience much of the darker sides of our country. Growing up in the military had me literally protected on all sides. But it also gave me exposure to lots of different ethnicities and cultures and religions. Add in progressive parents who valued education and equality, and you get somebody who gives a crap about the world and its inhabitants. As I’m standing there in my pajamas with an adrenaline high to rival the hottest street drug, I find myself thinking of the people who have to deal with that kind of fear on a far more frequent basis. Families in Aleppo. Child soldiers in Africa. Yazidi’s under the thumb of ISIL. My situation is nothing compared to what they have to endure.

We always seem to think of other places across the world for comparison after angry encounters at zero-dark-thirty. We watch the news and are quietly grateful we’re not there, and give lip-service to wishing we could do something. But the horror across the ocean simply distracts us from the horrors in our own back yard.

In recent years, the US has seen an increase in mass shootings – 385 of them in 2015 alone, depending on your source. This past weekend gave us yet another one in Florida. Chicago experienced its deadliest shooting year in two decades – 762 dead by year’s end, 12 of them on Christmas weekend alone. You’re probably reading those stats and wondering what the hell is wrong with us gun-loving ‘Muricans. When I was younger, I thought the same thing. I was a strong proponent of total gun control, akin to the likes of Japan. As I’ve aged, my thoughts on the matter swung to the other end of the argument. Supposedly it’s because we become more conservative as we get older, but I think the reality is we become more experienced and educated in the world, and come to understand the world as it is and not as we’d imagine it to be.

 

unicorns-rainbows

Dammit, I’m done adulting!

 

Because the truth of the matter is, guns are simply the tool. Yes, we should have background checks and safety training courses and permits. But getting rid of firearms entirely won’t solve the issue. Mass murders will still happen, just using different tools like trucks and Kool-Aid[2]. The real problem isn’t the how, it’s the why. But that’s a complicated, chaotic web of anger, disenfranchisement, mental health, social influences, and untold number of other factors and we humans want an easy answer. There isn’t one. Gun control is just putting a band aide on an arterial bleed. We’ll feel like we’ve accomplished something, but the patient will still die.

And the real scary truth of the matter – we will never stop it all. No matter how much research, how good our health care, how wonderful our economy, how draconian our laws – there will always be somebody somewhere that will slip through the cracks and leave us all standing around wondering what the hell just happened. That’s just the nature of humanity. I can do little more than point out the problems and offer suggestions for solutions, but I suppose that’s what writers are meant to do.

In the mean time, I’ll be a responsible gun owner and hope we never have to use one beyond the firing range. The guy at our front door wandered off after a few minutes, so we can keep that goal for now. We learned later that he had mistaken our house for his brother’s, where the two drunken siblings got in a fight and brought six police units to our neighborhood. Some would say that’s just another Friday night in the city. I’m looking forward to when it’s not.

[1] Drill Instructor

[2] http://ijr.com/2015/12/487774-13-mass-killings-where-no-guns-were-involved/

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Year 2017 CE

How I would like to spend the year:

 

Maybe they won't notice...

Maybe they won’t notice…

 

How I will remind myself I shouldn’t:

 

all-that-is-necessary-for-the-triumph-of-evil-edmund-burke

I’m no man!

 

We all must stand up for what we believe in, or we just become part of the problem. Be strong. Be brave. Be vocal. Be you.

May your best day of 2016 be the equivalent of your worst day in 2017.

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