John Boehner and the Implosion of the Republican Party

29 Apr

cruz-devilIf you have followed this blog at all, you already know I have worked hard to expose how awful former Speaker of the House, John Boehner is, which makes it just that more delicious when even Boehner compares Ted Cruz to Satan. To be fair, I suspect Satan looks at Cruz and says: “Gosh, you are kinda mean.”  Boehner’s exact words in describing Cruz were: ““Lucifer in the flesh… I have Democrat friends and Republican friends. I get along with almost everyone, but I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life.”

My own bias is that yes, Cruz is an awful human being. He is explicitly anti-woman, anti-gay, anti-choice, anti-immigration, in fact, I’m not certain there are actually any people he likes, save for white Christian men–OY! Of course, given the wide berth his colleagues give him, the feeling seems to be mutual. I wonder if we need to ban Cruz from using public bathrooms.

This most recent trouble with Cruz is indicative of something greater at work–the implosion of the Republican party. The wave of Tea Party (right wing extremists) have pulled the GOP into a direction that makes a train wreck look like a lovely afternoon outing. I submit all of the GOP presidential debates as evidence. Cruz’ bizarre attempt at courting Indiana primary voters by trotting out Carly Fiorina as his running mate seems desperate but also exceedingly ignorant, as it holds no weight. If this becomes a contested convention, then the delegates pick the VP candidate. The implosion of this party manifests itself by working to hurt most United States citizens.  The rise of this hateful state has also emboldened the Chief Obstructionist and Racist, Mitch McConnell.

While it becomes more apparent everyday that Cruz needs to be sent to Guantanamo Bay, sadly, that would make him the only person currently that should be there. Let us not forget how equally awful John Kasich is, despite that “Golly Gosh” grin of his.

GOP leaders seem shocked that decades of discrimination and obstruction have left them with these yahoos as their candidates. Many congresscritters running in tight races have even said they won’t show up at the convention. Sorry, folks, but you built this — walking away won’t change a single fact, for you all have created a dirt that just won’t wash clean.

Earth Day 2016: United By the Soil Beneath Our Feet

22 Apr

globalsoilweekToday is Earth Day, celebrated by nearly 200 nations and an important chance to look at the world we share and celebrate better ways to live in healthy cooperation. This isn’t just a day about recycling or public transportation — although every effort to improve our world helps. It’s a time to reflect on the fact that the billions of people who live on this planet fundamentally walk the same ground, breathe the same air, drink the same water. We are all connected.

I would like to thank Melody Travers of the Global Soil Forum for bringing a powerful program to my attention. Global Soil Week, timed to coincide with Earth Day and Earth Week activities around the world. This program, sponsored by IASS Potsdam and an impressive array of international organizations, speaks to my heart. Their work is about ensuring healthy soil, a key component of healthy living that is often overlooked. As Ms. Travers observes:

Our soils which are our communal life-support system, a common good for humanity, are under immense pressure to produce an increasing amount of food, energy, and raw materials. Soil degradation continues unabated in many countries, resulting in devastating losses of biodiversity and threatening the provision of ecosystem services such as soil fertility for food production, groundwater recharge or carbon sequestration. Thus we need to protect the living soil from rapid and continuous large scale degradation going on all over the world.

This year, Global Soil Week is promoting its efforts through the international  release of the song Golden Grounds. Please visit the website and listen to this anthem of interconnectedness. Spend some time looking at the amazing information collected by this important program. I am thrilled to see the celebration of inclusive development, the focus on poverty and hunger, the acknowledgment of maldistribution of resources, including the very land on which we live.

We are all connected on this weary world. Let’s work together to nurture it and each other on our respective journeys.

Truth in Advertising: Trump and Kasich

15 Mar
Gov. Kasich measures how moderate he actually is

Gov. Kasich measures how moderate he actually is

While there is really very little good I have to say about Donald Trump, the sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot, I will say he does provide truth in advertising. It is exceedingly — even painfully — clear how dangerous he is individually and for the country. That being said, I think it is equally important to understand how dangerous the stealth candidate John Kasich is, as we look at what he has done to Ohio. Kasich is far from being the moderate he would like people to think he is, which means there is NO moderate choice from the GOP candidates.

Sadly, even NPR consistently refers to Kasich as “moderate,” I don’t think that word means what they think it means. Just because he does not appear or behave like he just graduated from clown college as Trump, Cruz, and Rubio do, he is nonetheless a far right extremist.  Let us not forget his stand on marriage equality — Obergefell v. Kasich which then became Obergefell v. Hodges — where Kasich showed just how homophobic he could be. Terminally ill John Arthur, who suffered from ALS, wanted the Ohio Registrar to identify his partner, James Obergefell, as his surviving spouse on his death certificate based on their marriage in Maryland. Governor Kasich then deemed it necessary to define marriage as an institution between one man and one woman and refused to acknowledge the marriage.

The governor takes an equally dangerous view on letting women have any say in their own health choices. Since taking office in 2011, he has enacted 16 measures that limit women’s access to reproductive health care. Some are aggressively anti-choice, like the so-called “late term” ban and a statewide gag order barring rape crisis counselors from making abortion referals. He has also used abortion rights as a tool to limit access to general reproductive health care, such as stripping millions of family planning dollars from Planned Parenthood. While Kasich has been governor, the number of Ohio abortion providers has been cut by 50% and funding for reproductive health care for women has dwindled.

The fact that Kasich doesn’t outright deny the science of climate change and “remains open” to “some options” on immigration does not make him moderate. Those vague statements simply mean that he’s willing to spout platitudes and smirk sagely while his primary competitors froth at the mouth and chew the furniture, and disgustingly compare penis size, because apparently that is now where we are at as a culture in the United States. Unlike the Donald or the two junior Senators, Kasich has a long history of executive actions to analyze, and all of those actions prove just prove what a sexist, homophobic racist he is, and how dangerous a Kasich presidency would be.

National Women’s History Month 2016

1 Mar

Women's HistoryMarch 1 marks the beginning of the celebration of National Women’s History Month. My dear friend Molly Murphy MacGregor led the pioneering effort to recognize how women have impacted, shaped, and influenced our world. Molly — always very humble — is the co-founder of the National Women’s History Project (NWHP) and a key force behind why we now celebrate Women’s History Month in the United States. The not insignificant move forward started in 1980, when President Jimmy Carter issued the first Presidential Proclamation declaring the Week of March 8th 1980 as National Women’s History Week.  Finally in 1987, Congress declared March as National Women’s History Month in perpetuity.

Sadly, we still see enormous resistance to treating women equally and equitably. We have no further than to look at the current discourse presented by the GOP presidential candidates to see how far we have yet to go regarding the equitable and equal treatment of women. Never have I witnessed such anti-woman rhetoric in the last 50 years. The false and fictitious allegations brought against PlannedParenthood by misogynist David Daleiden, were nothing less than disgraceful. All subsequent investigations found no evidence of wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood. We also had to witness Kansas (R) Sen. Mitch Holmes defending a dress code for women. The dominant narrative continues to exert power over women and continues to create barriers.

We also need to look at issues of race, gender identity, and sexual orientation and all of the intersections there in when looking at all of the insidious ways women are still discriminated against.

We have much to celebrate and much work yet to accomplish.

Black History Month 2016: Vanessa Williams

26 Feb

VanessaToday I would like to honor Vanessa Williams, one of the most versatile and gracious talents and a national treasure. I first fell in love with Williams when she was horribly wronged in 1984 and was pressured to relinquish her Miss America Crown. Williams received an official apology for the way she was treated in September 2015 from Miss America CEO Sam Haskell. Of course, Williams was exceedingly gracious and forgiving. I’m not wholly certain I would have been as generous, but I hope I would be.

Later I would fall in love with her again and bought her album The Comfort Zone because it has one of my favorite songs, Save the Best for Last on it. One of the very best Christmas albums ever is Williams’ Star Bright; I have given away many, many copies of this as a gift. Her version of Go Tell it on the Mountain is nothing less than phenomenal.

While she has a list of movie and television roles too long to list, one of my favorite roles — which she made into a gay icon — was the deliciously devilish diva known as Wilhelmina Slater on Ugly Betty. This was a hallmark moment in television, for it had a powerful, brilliant, pro gay black woman sharing the screen with an equally powerful, brilliant, pro gay, Latina woman (America Ferrera). Watching Ugly Betty with our Vanessa Williams made me hopeful that targeted communities would unite and throw off the oppressive shackles of the George W years. Who knew those years would look progressive in light of the current GOP discourse?

Feeling a bit bleak and depressed listening to the hate mongers known as the GOP presidential candidates, my husband and I have started to watch Ugly Betty from the beginning again, as a palliative. It is nice to fall in love with Vanessa Williams all over again. The only reason we ever watched the show Desperate Housewives was so that we could see Williams. We have just started watching a show called The Good Wife and I just learned that Williams is one of the stars in this final season of the show; we’re looking forward to enjoying her in a new role.

Vanessa Williams could have been a tiny footnote in Miss America history. Instead, she rose above the inflated non-scandal and proved what a strong, independent woman she is. Without a doubt the most successful and famous winner of the crown, she definitely had the last laugh. That resilience shines through in her activism: Williams is a vocal pro-choice advocate, a staunch ally of the LGBT community, and a supporter of programs for at-risk youth. She also funds cancer research, actively supports Dress for Success, and works with programs that combat homelessness.

A wonderful singer, talented actor, and beautiful human being! Let’s celebrate all of Vanessa Williams’ accomplishments today.

Black History Month 2016: Nina Simone

21 Feb

nina-simone2Today I would like to honor and pay tribute to one of my personal heroes, Nina Simone. Simone would have been 83 years old today.  I remember crying my eyes out on April 21, 2003 when I heard that Nina Simone died. I fell in love with her smoky jazz voice so many years ago.  Emeli Sandé credits Simone as one of her major influences

Eunice Kathleen Waymon was born in Tryon, NC, and aspired to be a classical pianist. Despite her prodigious talent, she was denied scholarships and admissions and pursued a career in clubs instead. Eventually signed to Colpix, she was boxed into a pop-jazz mode for a few years. She took the standards she was given and began subverting them with her unique style — she was described as being a piano player, singer, and performer, “separately and simultaneously.” Over the years her stage set became famous for her powerful interpretations and righteous original songs.

Simone’s response to the assassination of Medgar Evers and the bombing of the church in Birmingham that killed four children, was Mississippi GoddamIn Mississippi Goddam, we see Simone taking her place in the civil rights movement. Unlike Dr. King, Simone advocated violence if necessary in order to establish a separate state for African-Americans – who could blame her. You can only feel beaten down so much without building up a great amount of rage. I have such a great admiration for Dr. King for sublimating his rage into non-violent means. The song Backlash Blues was written by her friend Langston Hughes. Simone was also friends with Lorraine Hansberry and turned one of her plays, To Be Young, Gifted and Black into a civil rights song.  In 1972, Aretha Franklin did a cover of that song. The song Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood was written specifically for Simone. Her version works simultaneously as a love song and a protest song, showing her emotional depth and complexity.

Sadly, it is painfully clear how much we still need Nina Simone’s voice and activism. I suspect she still inspires many of us. Happy Birthday to the national treasure that is Nina Simone.

Black History Month 2016: Black Lives Matter

1 Feb

black-lives-matterThis is now the sixth year that Social Justice For All (SJFA) has celebrated Black History Month. Sadly, the past year has proven unequivocally why we still need Black History Month. I can only hope all of us in the United States are doing some reflection around our own racism and encouraging conversations around issues of racial disparities and systems of inequities and oppression. I also hope as we have these courageous conversations we have a better understanding of what racism is.

In the wake of Ferguson, Cleveland, New York, and all of the other cities where black voices are being silenced, we have an opportunity to engage in meaningful conversations around race and racism.  I hope all of us who identify as white have some discomfort as we look at how disproportionately black lives are subjected to police brutality or murder — how all of us should be mourning Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Artago Damon Howard, Jeremy Lett, Trayvon Martin, Roy Nelson, Miguel Espinal, Anthony Ashford, and all of the other unarmed black lives lost. It is with profound sadness that I note the statistic (most likely under-reported) that police killed at least 102 unarmed black people in 2015, more than any other race. I find it more than difficult to believe that systemic, institutional, and individual racism did not have a hand in these deaths.

While I identify as a queer white man, I would argue this horrific part of American History 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.

Equity and Equality are still just a dream when 13% of the people in our country identify as African American (we know this percentage is not accurate because of the many barriers that prevent some African Americans from filling out the census) and far fewer than this are represented in most walks of life. Sadly, the places where African Americans are over-represented include poverty, dropout rates, and incarceration, further evidence that institutionalized oppression still plays a major role in how things work in America. In states like Alabama, African Americans that are or were incarcerated lose their right to vote for the rest of their lives – so much for the 14th Amendment.

I would love to see a point in history when we don’t need Black History, Women’s History, or LGBT History Months. I don’t see that happening until we have a level playing field, which would require eradicating racism, misogyny, and homophobia. This also requires that we see accurate representation in history books and the media of Blacks, Women, and LGBT folk. I can only hope that all of these targeted populations can find ways to build community and work together around issues of equity and equality.

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 vote and think about the candidate you are voting for this year for President.

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