MLK Day of Service 2017: Celebrate Rep. John Lewis

16 Jan

john-lewisMr. Trump’s attack on civil rights hero John Lewis certainly underscores and unequivocally proves the need to celebrate our civil rights pioneers. I had the great honor of actually getting to meet Rep. John Lewis when he spoke at the Atlanta Girl’s School at a convocation we held. While I had always loved and admired Rep. Lewis, and I was fortunate enough to live in his district for many years, after his speech, all I could think of was: I want all children to turn out like this man!

Rep. John Lewis marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and endured such physical assaults and hate during the civil rights movement. Yet he emerged as this beautiful soul who has done nothing but promote peace, love, and equity for targeted populations — this has been his life’s work. To see him attacked by Mr. Trump who only has a legacy of avarice, mendacity, and divisiveness, hurts my heart more than I can say. The old rules of human decency seem to no longer apply. The United States seems to only reward sociopathic billionaires now who tweet late into the nighttime how their feelings have been hurt.

With the ascension/anointment of Mr. Trump, we have seen how his supporters are emboldened to thwart human decency. Case in point, Biloxi, Mississippi has renamed MLK Day to “Observance of Great Americans Day.” Thanks, Biloxi. You have made it painfully clear that only white heterosexual men are welcomed to your white city. This new celebration will also celebrate Confederate General Robert E. Lee. I think I just spat up a little in my mouth. More evidence of how emboldened Trump supporters have become, we witness Republican Gwinnett County Commissioner Tommy Hunter calling Lewis “a racist pig.” Mr. Hunter, you clearly do not understand the word racism. Please step down from your position of power.

I grow exceedingly tired of Trump supporters including Trump’s bitch (NBC) and famous idiots like Nicole Kidman who keep telling us: “We have to trust Trump and support him.”  Why on earth would any targeted person/community trust this man, when he keeps appointing White Supremacists, Homophobes, Misogynists, billionaires to his cabinet? Help me understand why on earth should we trust him.

I am inviting all of us in the United States to reflect around our own racism and encourage conversations around issues of racial disparities and systems of inequities and oppression. I also invite us to think about how we see our country. For all of us white folk, now is the time for us to stand up against racism — to speak out against and resist those who continue to participate in the system of racism. I am asking for us to become activists and NOT to speak for nor speak over black voices. Find out what it means to be an ally. If you are not speaking out against Trump and against racism then you are colluding with the oppressor. Mr. Trump just cancelled his MLK Day visit to the National African American Museum “because he is too busy.” What kind of message does that send to all of us about his commitment to heal a divided nation and to address systemic racism? If you need to cry here, please do. I know many of us are crying for what the future holds in store.

While I identify as a queer white man, I would argue racism in the United States is most definitely a queer issue, it is a feminist issue, it is a black issue, it is a trans issue, for the intersectionality here makes it an issue for all people living in the United States.

Taking Action: Here we have an opportunity as white people to leverage our power and privilege for black lives. I hope all of us are engaging in conversations that address issues of access, power, and barriers. Can we look for spaces where white people can stand back and stand in solidarity with black people? Can we look for spaces to ensure more black voices are being heard? Please resist and do not normalize a Trump administration. I leave you with this clip from a show called Black-ish.

Feeling Grateful in Time of Great Despair: Happy New Year

1 Jan
2017:Organize

2017:Organize

2016 has been an exceedingly painful, turbulent, and awful year. Since turning 50 three weeks ago, I have been deeply troubled by the current course of the United States under what can only be called a Fascist regime, under Trump and his merry band of racists, misogynists, and homophobic collectibles, who seem to want to dismantle all of the agencies that serve people in the United States. Their collective efforts will ensure that the top 20% of Americans not only keep their wealth but will build on it exponentially — a wet dream for Paul Ryan. Sadly,  author Thomas Pynchon  captures the philosophy of the 21st century GOP:

Back when I was getting into the business, all ‘being Republican’ meant really was sort of principled greed. You arranged things so that you and your friends would come out nicely, you behaved professionally, above all you put in the work and took the money only after you’d earned it. Well, the party, I fear, has fallen on evil days. This generation — it’s almost a religious thing now. The millennium, the end days, no need to be responsible anymore to the future. A burden has been lifted from them. The Baby Jesus is managing the portfolio of earthy affairs, and nobody begrudges Him the carried interest…

There is no sense of paying it forward — no sense of leaving the earth a better place for future generations. No, the rules have changed and now it is about getting all you can and getting more than you need, regardless if others have to go without, and future generations have to suffer for it.

As I have turned 50, I am witnessing our country turn backwards and turn its back on all targeted individuals and communities. For those predicting an economic windfall under TrumpPutin, I worry you are a bit delusional. I am most regrettably predicting a recession that will be just as traumatic as the one George W paved the way for during his administration.

While it has been most challenging not to give into a misanthropic abyss, or The Princess Bride’s “Pit of Despair,”  I have also had to do some serious reflection as we are about to usher in 2017. While I am terrified of what the next four years have in store, I have to also be exceedingly grateful for the life I have.

Here is what I have that makes me share tears of joy: A life partner whom I love and adore and who loves me as we get to travel this journey of life together; such amazing family and friends who make my heart swell with love — friends who constantly make me work to be a better person. These two things alone give me hope and make me so extraordinarily grateful! I know I am strong enough to persevere and resist a fascist regime.

I know how to engage in community organizing, how to stand in solidarity for human rights and social justice. I know how to keep vigilant and NOT normalize our current condition. I also know I do not do this work alone, for I do this work with my brilliant family and friends! To all of you: I say thank you! Happy New Year. I wish you all peace and that you each are surrounded by love.

Dear Donald: A Plea For Decency

19 Dec

trumpstampDear Donald:

How unfortunate that the only truth you managed in the past two years was that the “election was rigged.” Sadly it was rigged on your behalf. While I fear this plea will fall prey to your pathological narcissism and thus will not be heard, I make it nonetheless.

It looks as though you may be assuming the role of President of the United States. May I implore you to rise to the occasion — to comport yourself with the gravitas of the role of a world leader?  You are NOT representing yourself here, rather you are representing every person that lives in the United States. Sadly, you have “drained the swamp” (your words) directly into your cabinet and have caused great alarm for all targeted people and communities living in the US. This is not just about misogyny, but about how someone who demonstrates every day that his ego rules over all else and whose success is rooted in the oppression of women, people of color, the LGBT community, people with disabilities, and all of the intersections therein.

For you and your followers, we need something to prove you all are not racist, homophobes, misogynists, breeders of hate. Your appointment of white supremacist and homophobe Steve Bannon does not inspire hope. Your appointment of white supremacist and homophobe Jeff Sessions further deteriorates any modicum of trust in your judgement. Sessions who was declared “too racist” during the Reagan years is now fit to be in your cabinet? One can hardly take solace in your appointment of Rex Tillerson, the Director a US/Russian oil company, as the next Secretary of State–conflict of interest much?  In fact, every appointment you have made demonstrates great disdain for the office they will hold and nothing but contempt and disrespect for the American people.

According the the Southern Poverty Law Center, CNN, Time, The New York Times, and myriad other publications, hate crimes have increased exponentially since the election. Sadly, you have done nothing to disavow any of this horrific behavior. As such, your silence condones it. Your supporters have grown so emboldened that they are ushering in the New Fascism. Ohio has just passed some of the most restrictive laws that preclude women from governing their own bodies. Louisiana has now passed laws that declare LGBT protections illegal, thanks to eternal homophobe Jeff Landry.

Given the evidence of the intercession of the Russians to influence the election in your favor, I know many are now worried about war. Is this what you want to be your legacy? Your inability to understand diplomacy, the need for intelligence meetings, (I know you consider yourself “biggly smart”), your disdain for science and for education should alarm us all. This is where I hope I am categorically wrong. I hope we do not end up in another war because of you. I shall take no pleasure in telling your supporters that they have only themselves to thank for another war and the loss of human life for caprice.

Yes, while I suspect this plea will be wholly ignored, I also implore all people living in the United States to resist the New Fascism, for us all to stand in solidarity, to work together to ensure that your threat to democracy does not prevail. Mr. Trump, “Have you no decency sir?”

I shall end this letter asking everyone: who will you take action to stand with and harbor? Sweet Honey in the Rock: Would You Harbor Me?

Post-Truth: The New Order

5 Dec

post-truth-bannerThe Oxford English Dictionary (OED) has named Post-Truth  as the word of the year for 2016. Post-Truth is defined as:

Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief: in this era of post-truth politics, it’s easy to cherry-pick data and come to whatever conclusion you desire. (OED)

The New Order: I do wonder if anyone else has thought to use that framework. I suspect one would have to be familiar with facts and not just feelings to know the answer to that. Yes, one would have to know history. Sadly, we in the United States have demonstrated we cannot be bothered with facts or history. We seem to pride our selves in ignorance, as we show great disdain of science and facts; we steep ourselves in jingoism, racism, misogyny, and homophobia.

Given the recent election for President in the United States, it seems abundantly clear that post-truth is in fact the word of the year. What do we do now? My question for those who voted for Trump is when will you take action to put his administration in check? Will you take action when he deports members of the Latino community? Will you take action when he creates a registry for Muslims? Will you create resistance when he tries to criminalize what is protected under the first amendment?  Will you protest when police, health care workers, and all service providers can deny LGBT people necessary services based on Pence’s perverted idea of “Religious Freedom”? When will you take action? How will you explain to our youth that actually it is categorically unacceptable to sexually or physically assault women, when the leader of the free world has tried to normalize it? Will you step up to the plate and help to STOP normalizing racism?

This denial of science and facts in favor of feelings not only seems absurd, but shows great hubris in our collective disregard for history. I’m waiting for climate change deniers to tell me the earth is flat. I fear that if Galileo were alive today, we would once again imprison him. If the Trump administration shapes up the way it looks like it will, he won’t be lonely.

Now is the time for us all to keep vigilant and engage in honest reflection. We need to pay close attention to Trump’s cabinet and the civil rights of all targeted people that are now in peril. I would maintain that all the white people who supported Trump because they are feeling disenfranchised, this is the time for you to keep vigilant; this is not a president who cares about you or your family. Here is evidence to support my claim. Trump has appointed Steven Mnuchin Secretary of the Treasury. You remember Mnuchin: he headed the foreclosure machine in California, profiting from the loss of homes by millions of Americans. Can someone tell me how this is Trump “draining the swamp?”

Call To Action: all of us need to be accountable in demanding facts and not feelings. Your belief in something does not make it true, even if Faux news repeats it every 17 minutes. As the post-truth administration takes power, let us  insist on policy based on facts and established rights, not the whims of the angry, manipulated minority.

Thanksgiving 2016: A Terrifying Time

23 Nov

diffiturkeyI usually post my annual iteration of A Collective Amnesia, for Thanksgiving, but this year seems particularly painful as I reflect on the profound sanctioning of racism, homophobia, and misogyny in the United States. I am nonplussed by the number of people in this country who are not mortified by how we are treating Native voices in North Dakota, as opposed to how we treated white tyrannical voices in Oregon.

I am more than disturbed and saddened that a white millionaire man who publicly makes fun of people with disabilities, says that it is okay to grab women by the genitals, makes horrific racist comments against the Latino and Muslim communities, and was endorsed by the KKK —  endorsed by the KKK, let that sink in — is our Presidnet-elect. How do we come back from this? If the United States ever had any moral high ground, we have categorically lost it.

I wish I could be hopeful for 2017, but Trump’s cabinet is full of nothing but white supremacists, homophobes, xenophobes, and misogynists. Where do you go when the President Elect selects White Supremacist, Steve Bannon? How is that supposed to make people feel safe in this country? As a gay man, how am I supposed to feel safe with Mike Pence as Vice-President? Pence who passed the Hate Bill (Religious Freedom Act) in Indiana that allows people to discriminate against the LGBTQ community. Pence who believes in conversion therapy. Pence who has shut down Planned Parenthood Clinics. How am I and the people I love supposed to feel safe with the appointment of infamous racist and homophobe Jeff Sessions of Alabama? Sessions who was rejected for a judgeship in 1986 because of his racist comments is suddenly fit to lead law enforcement in the United States? Sessions who supported the KKK until he found out that some of them smoked pot–wow! Sessions who has supported DOMA, who has created barriers for the LGBTQ community at every turn, just as Pence has. The message is clear: only white heterosexual men are safe.

I can only hope that all targeted people and our many allies stand in solidarity and refuse to normalize what is currently happening in this nation. Finally, I am grateful for my loving husband and for all the people in my family and family of choice whom I treasure. We must support and love one another. I leave you with some Sweet Honey in the Rock, Ella’s SongIn solidarity, Michael.

I Hear America Weeping

11 Nov

libertyweepsI hear America weeping today, November 9, 2016. No, this is not Walt Whitman’s poem, I Hear America Singing. This is a song of woe, a song of anguish, a song of despair.

How is it possible that a person who sold nothing but pure hate could be elected President of the United States? A man’s whose venom reached Muslims, Latinos, the entire LGBTQ community, and all women is now President Elect? How? When Gollum’s understudy, James Comey, released his red herring of Hillary’s emails (which of course was NOTHING) days before the election, it managed to turn the conversation away from the dozen of women who have been sexually assaulted by Donald Trump. A man who admitted to cheating the government out of paying taxes — taxes that people in poverty and middle class people have to pay. For his loyalty, Comey will not lose his job.

I understand people wanting to break a system. What I do not understand is how you chose to anoint such a homophobic, racist, misogynistic, and xenophobic piece of hell to do this. How? This man is a clear threat to me and my family and to all women, to all people of color.

Today, I hear children afraid to go to school. I hear adults and children of color afraid to live in the United States. I am afraid and ashamed to live here now.

I hear LGBT people young and old afraid to leave their homes — afraid that all of the successes made in the past eight years will now be turned back.

I hear women crying and fearful that the government will have even more control over their bodies — that the culture of rape has now been sanctioned by a misogynistic predator who has been elected as the leader of this nation.

I hear Native voices peacefully asking for us not to trespass on their sacred land and cry a cry centuries old in protest of colonization.

I hear the voices of our Muslim family quiver at the thought of what this now world “leader” will do to them.

I hear the Black Lives Movement tapping into strength and resiliency in the face of sanctioned, sustained racism.

I hear the choir of over 20 million voices (mine included) that now have health insurance thanks to Obamacare (The Affordable Care Act) scared that we will now go uninsured because of Trump.

I hear parents asking, “how do I explain this to my children?” How do we explain how we have rewarded this bully and his white supremacy?

How do we heal a nation that is divided by hate versus love. Trump has managed to normalize wicked and categorically unacceptable behavior. His supporters have sent a clear message that the only people safe and wanted in this country are white, heterosexual, cisgender men — and you better not have a disability! And you are welcome to treat women as chattel.

For those of you who voted for Trump who are in poverty, poor, and or unemployed, you have screwed yourself over yet again! But worse, you threw all of your neighbors under the bus because of your white anger.

As I am very quickly approaching 50 years old, I am exceedingly sad. This is not the country I hoped we would be in 2016.

Yet, I will not give into despair. Rather, I will challenge myself and all of America to take action! We need to organize, support each other, and change this system. Let us make every effort to mitigate the destruction he has laid out, the shredding of rights he has promised. Stay mobilized and passionate! There are anti-Trump rallies taking place all over the country — people are organizing and taking action. In fact, I was caught up in traffic last night because our anti-Trump rally managed to shut down I5.  I must confess, I did a little happy dance in the car. While I was inconvenienced, I was elated to learn that people are protesting. My only sadness, was that I did not get to attend this rally.

Well, my other sadness was that I later learned there were one or two people in the rally that were ill behaved. Please, I do hope all of us who are a part of these rallies do so peacefully–I don’t want us behaving in the same way Trump does. I implore all of you, please don’t despair, take action! Yes, I am also speaking to you, my white heterosexual allies. WE NEED YOU! Now is an opportunity for white heterosexual allies to step up to the plate and make your voices heard!

Racism and the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

28 Oct
Define Refuge

Define Refuge

I was more than just a little bit disturbed yesterday afternoon upon hearing that all seven of the white terrorists who were armed and held the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge hostage, destroying many ancient Native artifacts during their occupation, were found not guilty of conspiracy. Ammon Bundy and his gang of heavily armed white terrorists occupied the Wildlife Refuge for 41 days and were found not guilty on all counts.

Here were the charges brought: conspiring to impede federal employees at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge through intimidation, threat or force stemming from the 41-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Four of the seven defendants were charged with possessing guns in a federal facility. Two of the defendants faced an additional charge of theft of government and destruction of property. How is it that they were acquitted of all charges? In what universe does this make any sense? If this were a group of people of color, can we really believe they would have been treated the same way and accommodated in the same manner?

This is particularly difficult to understand juxtaposed what is currently happening in North Dakota, where unarmed Native protesters are being arrested as they protest the destruction of sacred burial grounds on Native land — land that was guaranteed to remain Native in an 1850 treaty. Protesters have been attacked and arrested by police with military tanks. Native unarmed and peaceful protesters were attacked with pepper spray and police dogs.

It is also difficult not to contrast the treatment of Bundy and his fellow whackadoodles with the treatment of unarmed black people in America being killed. I am thinking of the shooting of physical therapist, Charles Kinsey, who on his back waving his hands asking, “please don’t shoot me.” and the over 130 unarmed black men who have been killed this year.

I invite everyone to watch this great video by Dena Takruri who ask the question: “What if the Oregon Occupiers were Black, or Muslim?” Here is the link.

I wonder if we can all sit with some discomfort with the verdicts for Bundy and his accomplices. Can we look at ways we can create conversations  around the issues of race, gender, power, and equity?

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