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How Dare You Kate Brown!

1 Oct

Watching the myriad Knute Buehler commercials on every network seems to address how truly systemic, institutional, and ubiquitous misogyny is, even here in “progressive” Oregon. How dare you, Kate Brown for being an effective, smart, and strong woman. Don’t you know that here in the United States we don’t want to see or hear smart and strong women? Watching the Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas hearings 27 years ago to watching the Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh hearings this week, it is painfully clear that we don’t want women’s voices in government. So who is going to save the country? Who will save Oregon? It looks to me like some angry women in elevators (true heroes, Maria Gallagher and Ana Maria Archila) will save the country, and I think Kate Brown is the woman to lead Oregon and who will remove barriers for all who carry targeted identities.

It is particularly difficult to watch the almost comical lies Buehler is spreading about Governor Brown. His lies range from the outrageous to the insane. I’m waiting for Buehler to blame Brown for the Scotts Mills earthquake that hit Oregon in 1993, or that she orchestrated the tsunami that just hit Indonesia–my she is powerful. Let us unpack some of the lies, so that we can all be better informed–granted this is for people who are concerned with facts, since facts have now become passè with Buehler and the Republican party. Let’s address the big ole lie regarding his blaming Brown for Oregon ranking number 48 in public schools. The fact is that, sadly, we already held that ranking before Brown became governor. Moreover, I need to underscore that Herr Buehler voted against creating smaller class sizes and voted against increasing teacher wages; this behavior/voting record only contributes to weakening our public schools. Buehler also lays the problem of homelessness at the feet of Brown–wow! Really? This attack is so unseemly and categorically false, yet I fear people will believe him because he is using the GOP method of lying: “just keep repeating it and people will eventually think it is true.” What is also disturbing is that Buehler has no realistic plan to address the system of poverty and homelessness. Whereas Governor Brown has been working to address poverty and remove barriers from people experiencing homelessness. It is also nice to see that President Obama endorsed Governor Brown.

Rep. Buehler’s website contains many “issues” pages with one common theme: start with a rant against Gov. Brown with no facts or substance, then spout lofty, vague platitudes about “working together” and “solving problems”. How committed is he to addressing Oregon’s problems? According to his voting record, not very. Over the past five years, he has voted against all of the following: statewide access to healthcare, requiring coverage for abortions and contraception, extending gun purchase background checks, prohibiting immigration status requirements, protecting tenants from capricious evictions (thus increasing the population experiencing homelessness), increasing the minimum wage, requiring employers to provide paid sick leave, and establishing seamless voter registration (one of Gov. Brown’s signature accomplishments, by the way). He has a 0% rating from the SEIU and a 93% rating from the NRA. The ACLU gives him a 33% and the Oregon Education Association a dismal 31%. Business and corporate groups consistently rate him in the 90s while environmental groups all rate him 40% or lower.

Knute Buehler is really good at finding marginalized and targeted people who are legitimately frustrated and spinning their stories into his web of lies. What he isn’t good at is actually identifying solutions to Oregon’s problems. He attacks PERS because it’s convenient, ignoring the fact that PERS security and education funding would both be solved by fixing our state’s ridiculous tax laws.

Gov. Brown is a dedicated, creative, passionate public servant. She’s actually interested in putting in the work to solve Oregon’s problems. Rep. Buehler is a self-serving, self-identified “moderate” who cares more about being Governor than being honest. His legislative record shows a callow conservative who votes against women, immigrants, victims of violence, the poor, and the disenfranchised. For all his talk about “fixing education”, he votes against schools.

Don’t be fooled. Knute Buehler may not be a raving lunatic like Sen. Lindsey Graham (R – SC, aka Gollum serving his dark lord 45), but his calm demeanor hides a corporate agenda that will do nothing to make Oregon better.

I also want to give a shout out to the brilliant Stacey Abrams, who is running for Governor of Georgia. Like Brown, she is enduring false attacks from the very racist, homophobic, misogynist, Brian Kemp. Again, we see a woman, and a woman of color who is being attacked for being smart, a woman, and being black–definitely a common theme in the United States.

Call to action: VOTE! Call your senators. Campaign for candidates that support all people, not just white, heterosexual, cis, able bodied men.

In an attempt to be fair to Knute Buehler, I tried repeatedly to call his office and his campaign staff, only to get a voice recording. I left messages, but Mr. Buehler, nor anyone from his campaign got back to me.

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Treason and the Embracing of Fascism

30 Jul

I have spent many weeks working on this particular article, as it has been eating at me and has been the cause of great consternation. While I typically do not reach out to 45’s base supporters, I am reaching out now, as I am exceedingly nonplussed. My observations are that continued support of 45 in the wake of his behavior in the last two years provides overwhelming evidence of a disturbing embracing of fascism and a complete lack of understanding of how a democracy operates, not to mention the overwhelming evidence of how racism unites a huge portion of the population in the United States.

In the past two years we have witnessed such sociopathic behavior from 45 and the entire GOP and what we have witnessed can’t be undone–it cannot be taken back. We now have to look at how do we repair the monumental damage done by this administration and all of you who colluded with this nefarious behavior. Here is just a minuscule list of the damaging and unacceptable behavior that is moving to deteriorate and dismantle our democracy: 45 endorsed and campaigned for Roy Moore who raped countless women and girls–how on earth do you move forward after that? How is that acceptable behavior? While campaigning, 45 mocked a reporter with disabilities–for me, I was certain this would have been the end of his campaign, but the American people sadly proved me wrong and said it was okay to mock people with disabilities. His base further disappointed me by saying it is acceptable for men to grab women by their genitals. I don’t know how any of you readers were raised, but I was raised with respect for human decency and all of 45’s behavior and the collusion and support by the entire GOP fly in the face of human decency.

Another breaking point was the separating of children from their families and placing children in cages in camps. When we learned that one particular child with Down syndrome was separated from his family, FOX correspondent Corey Lewandowski mocked the child and family with his pathetic “womp, womp.” Honestly, how does one bounce back from this behavior? Have you no decency Mr. Lewandowski? Have you no empathy? I grow fearful and exhausted by 45’s base who shout: “if you break the law, you get separated from your family.” Sadly, you all don’t seem to understand how the law works and how applying for asylum works, or what due process means. One has to be on American soil to fill out the paper work to apply for asylum and should not be separated from one’s family and then is entitled to due process.

Now let us talk about treason.  While 45 works to alienate our allies and insults Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, demonstrates unbelievably boorish behavior to the Queen of England, and then praises oppressive dictators like Kim Jung Un seems like a dystopian piece of fiction, but sadly it is our reality. His private meeting with Puppet Master Vlad Putin is more than just problematic, it is in fact treason. 45 said: “It is U.S. foolishness and stupidity and the Mueller probe that is responsible for the decline in US relations with Russia,” all of this in the face of the evidence that Russia was involved in disrupting our democratic process. Then to make matters worse, 45 has now invited the Puppet Master to come to DC for another private meeting. Why are we not collectively freaking out over this? Why have charges of treason not been filed?

Moving on to more examples of behavior that you can’t take back–behavior that painfully demonstrates that 45 and the entire GOP display the very worst of humanity. 45 and his administration are currently trying to purge all current soldiers who are impacted by HIV.  Even more disgusting is that 45 is diverting Ryan White funds that are designated to help those impacted by HIV to separate children from families. The very unstable 45 has now also threatened Iran with war.  Is this who we are as a nation? The sad answer is YES–this is who we have devolved to as a nation. It is not a small wonder that we have lost any respect from our allies around the globe.

In my 51 years of living, never did I imagine I would witness the nation embracing Fascism, but alas here we are. Fascism is the embracing and subscription to an authoritarian government that does not allow for opposing views; it vilifies the free press and demonizes opposing voices as “enemies of the state.” There is a strong push towards nationalism and great disdain for economic equality, rampant misogyny, and disdain for the arts and intellectuals — disdain for human rights. All decision making is from a unilateral voice without a system of check and balances, and fraudulent elections.

Call to action: I worry that those of you who remain in 45’s seemingly implacable base, your legacy is one of hate, racism, homophobia, misogyny, and fear. Please prove me wrong. I implore all of us to reflect and show ourselves and the world we are better than this. I want America to weep no more. For all of us in the Resistance, please practice self-care. For me, I am watching Netflix and Kim’s Convenience.

Crying Over Breakfast

14 Jul
Robert and I started our morning with coffee on our front porch enjoying the sun, we try to make this our weekly Saturday ritual. We decided to walk to Multnomah Village to the new bagel shop for breakfast. While on our walk we were unpacking the stress of living under the insanity of the Trump administration; most recently his attack on NATO, England and Prime Minister Theresa May, his attack on Germany, and his over the top boorish behavior with Queen Elizabeth. As we were eating our breakfast outside we overheard two conversations. The first conversation was a family with two small boys and the father was saying to his son: “I think it would be a good idea to give part of your birthday money to an organization that needs some help–you can pick what organization you want to help out.”
The second conversation we overheard was with a mother and her daughter and son. Daughter: “Mamma, I feel guilty for using a straw, but I like using the straw.” Mother: “I think it would be a good idea if I start to pack reusable and washable straws so that you can have your straw and we don’t hurt the environment.”
Yes, this made Robert and me cry in public. In a time of such intense darkness and fear mongering and climate change denial all from 45, these two conversations we overheard were such a lovely and amazing gift and made us cry tears of joy and hope! Feeling hopeful and grateful today!
My hope is that all of you who read this have the chance to experience some hope today and to be in a place of gratitude.

I AM Running For President, Officially

2 Jul

My sad attempt to do drag.

While the past 528 days have been excruciatingly painful, the past week has been so intense that everyone I know is understandably in despair. With Justice Kennedy resigning under a cloud of mystery, the Supreme Court ruling against women’s rights to access safe abortions, gutting union power, justifying discrimination against the LGBTQ community in the guise of religious freedom, and supporting 45’s racist travel ban, it has all been too much! This on top of 45 withdrawing us from the United Nations Human Rights Council and insulting our former allies, while praising dictators like Kim Jung Un and Vladimir Putin. This is particularly difficult in the wake of 45 congratulating himself for his “summit” with Kim Jung Un and now we have evidence as of June 27 that North Korea is currently increasing its nuclear capacity–thanks 45–you truly are a moron! The summit between 45 and the Puppet Master (Putin) should have the entire nation enraged, terrified, and thinking about courses of action to resist this administration. It is easy to see why the nation has plummeted into great despair.

I have sadly been pondering and understanding why thinking people who experience depression contemplate suicide–I say this with no judgement, but rather complete empathy, as I have struggled with depression for over 40 years and have periodically thought about suicide. I have decided the course of action I am compelled to take, is that I must run for President and assemble a cabinet that celebrates our diversity and is committed to equity — that we dedicate ourselves to lifting every voice, and I want to be the first openly Queer President.

My platform that I will run on is:

  • Medicare for all/Improving access for all to health care
  • Focus on Women’s rights, specifically reproductive rights
  • Establishing and sustaining rights and protections for the entire LGBTQ community
  • Establish a commitment to addressing Climate Change
  • Make Higher Education accessible to all
  • Establish a Living Wage and Support our Unions
  • Develop a complete redistribution of wealth to eliminate poverty and address housing as a human right
    • Taxing corporations and families and individuals earning over $250,000 a year
    • We have over 30 years of evidence that the “trickle down theory” is bullshit
  • Abolish ICE
  • Design some form of gun control
  • Support and help to rebuild Puerto Rico

As First Gentleman, my husband, Robert, will pursue a platform of civic education for all, esuring that today’s generation of students is tomorrow’s generation of informed, effective voters and engaged community participants.

I would also appoint people who actually have the capacity for critical thought and are competent for cabinet positions. Maxine Waters (who has received an extraordinary amount of death threats for asking for peaceful protests, in contrast to 45 who incites and ask for violence) will be Vice-President. RuPaul will be Secretary of State–although bitch please, she stole my song “Don’t be Jealous of my Boogie,” as I recorded it back when I was a Ziegfeld  Follies girl in 1930. RuPaul, “you better work,” as we have a great deal of repair work to do around the world. The Grande Dame, Latrice Royal will be the Director of the FBI. Kayta Yekaterina Petrovna Zamolodchikova will become the Director of the CIA. My press secretary will be Ms. Vanjie who will replace the slithering  soulless sycophant Sarah Huckabee Sanders. John Lewis of Georgia will be the new Attorney General. Replacing the walking illiterate homophobic pustule, Betsy DeVos, will be Ms. Sasha Velour. My former student and veteran, Sergeant Brandon Robert Leonard (Army) will be the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. My esteemed colleague and dear friend Professor Lisa Hawash (long time advocate for those in poverty and experiencing homelessness) will be the Secretary of Labor. My amazing colleague and friend with EqualityWorks, NW, Juanita Range will be the Secretary of the Treasury. My equally amazing colleague and friend also with EqualityWorks, NW, Kenya Budd will be the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Dr. Gita Mehrotra, who has over 15 years of experience working with and advocating for communities around housing will be the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Asha Omar, a former student and now colleague and has over a decade of experience around issues of diplomacy will be the Secretary of Defense. Jodi Sisson will serve as my Chief of Staff for her decades of experience in social justice. Christine Baranski will be my Whitehouse Counsel.

Moving on to the Supreme Court. This court has been lopsided with Fascists for long enough. Replacing Justice Kennedy will be Ms. Bianca Del Rio. With the latest sexual harassment accusations against Clarence Thomas, he will be impeached and replaced by the right honorable Anita Hill.

My administration will work with heart, passion, and empathy to make the lives of all humans better and to create greater access. We want all people to be able to thrive and live in love and prosperity without barriers. I want our country to be a place where people with targeted identities no longer have to live in fear and that all public servants operate from a place of curiosity, humility, and empathy. When we accomplish this, we will have as evidence a lower crime rate, less hate, and less fear. We can live in community and celebrate and honor all human beings and see how our diversity around the intersections of race, queerness, gender, ability, and gender identity make us stronger! Love will prevail! We will be able to see that finally Mike Pence and Alex Jones can celebrate their long lusty love affair publicly. 

I implore you, please vote in the midterms in November and change the balance of power! Send McConnell packing! In solidarity and with love, Michael.

The Weaponization of Social Justice

18 Jun

In the past three months I have been doing a great deal of reflection around how to mindfully create space to be more generous and more loving during the extraordinary fatigue of 45. Sadly, I have observed that I and the communities I am a part of and the nation in general are short tempered, ungenerous, quick to anger, quick to judge, and operate from fear and hate, rather than increasing our efforts to be loving and empathic. I know for me it has been difficult to get in the space of being more generous of heart with the daily assaults coming from 45 and his racist, homophobic, ableist, misogynistic, transphobic administration. How then can we be committed to issues of social justice and to be mindfully centered in love is the question I am wresting with currently.

I have, with great sadness, witnessed communities and students where I teach using social justice as a weapon–a weapon to prove how “woke” they are. I will say emphatically right now that none of us are “woke.” My whole life’s work is around social justice and working towards a more equitable world. My colleagues and I are constantly tell people we work with that we are having to hold the tension of messiness of social justice in perpetuity — that we are life long learners and our journey of awareness will never end if we are truly reflective, curious, and come from a place of love and humility.

As of the writing of this article, we are on day 514 of 45’s assault on the United States. The fatigue is real, as we see people in this country pitted against each other and the erosion of empathy and loss of any sense of community. We have to witness and live through more than 514 assaults on LGBTQ rights, on women’s rights (the aggressive attack on Planned Parenthood, on separating children from families and housing them in cages), an assault on civil rights for all people of color —  the list goes on and on. With the deterioration of our nation, I am wanting to engage in conversations and behavior that extend more love and more generosity of heart — to resist the hate that 45 and his administration put out into the universe. I want to make my corner of the universe sane in the face of this overwhelming insanity.

I want to embrace what former First Lady Michelle Obama said: “When they go low, we go high.” And my heart sinks at how much I miss First Lady Michelle Obama and how much I miss President Obama. I am inviting myself and others to resist what is being modeled for us from Fox News, who control 45’s brain — resist operating from a place of fear and hate. We must be mindful and center ourselves in love. I must work to reflect and try to ensure that our actions and words are from a place of love and to create more space for all of us to exist. I know I will fail at this and yet I must dedicate myself to keep trying in the face of so much overwhelming hate and fear, of racism, classism, abelism, homophobia, misogyny, all of the other ways in which we treat targeted communities.

What has been particularly heartbreaking for me is watching people lash out at those who are trying to help and make a difference. For example (and I have her permission to share this), a colleague of mine attended a listening session for the students we teach. My colleague, and friend, thanked the students and then offered: “Thank you, this is so helpful, please tell me what you need so that I can try and meet those needs.” What horrified me was the reaction from a student, a white woman, who came at my colleague with: “Don’t you dare ask what we want — that is putting all of the labor on us and not you. You are acting in a white supremacist way right now.” I hardly know what to say, save that I hope this student will do some reflection and come back to my colleague with an apology. My colleague is Latina and is part of the resistance  movement, so I am also worried we have people using language that they actually lack the sophistication of knowing how to use words with shared meaning.

Another example that was particularly painful was an experience in one of my own classes, where a student told me that: “my job is to listen and to say yes or no, but not to make things messy.”  Wow! Candidly, I consider the lion’s share of my work is to make things messy and to ask people to create more space and more empathy. I can only hope this student, who is now a colleague, will do some reflection and even circle back to me.

Call to action: I invite all of us to try to practice radical love and kindness. While I know I will fail at this probably several days a week, I must commit to staying engaged and working hard to act from a place of curiosity, humility, and love. I must also continue to do everything I can do to help make my world a place that values community and resist the insanity that  is 45, Pence, and their minions. I must center my self in love.

What has been very helpful for me is watching the television show The Good Fight! This is such a brilliant show and my husband and I feel a bit more hopeful, a bit safer, and a bit less anxious after each episode. The amazingly talented Delroy Lindo, Audra McDonald, Cush Jumbo, Nyambi Nyambi, and Christine Baranski, and the rest of the amazing cast of The Good Fight create amazing resistance to the world 45 is creating. We are also watching RuPaul’s Drag Race as a tonic to the hate and fear mongering perpetrated by this administration. While I know it can be extraordinary difficult at times to love people who are actively hurting you, I am trying to sustain the belief and action that being centered in love is the way to eradicate racism, homophobia, abelism, misogyny, and all of the intersections therein. With love and gratitude, Michael.

Celebrating Gilbert Baker

2 Jun

As we are getting our month long celebration of Gay/Queer Pride month going, I want to celebrate and remember Gilbert Baker, who was born on June 2, 1951.

Sadly, we lost Gilbert Baker on March 30, 2017, he was only 65. Baker was a gay rights activist who designed the now iconic rainbow gay pride flag in 1978. As a gay queer man, I knew that if I saw this flag in a store front or in neighborhoods, it meant I would be safe and welcomed there.

I have included this comic strip by my husband, Robert, as it does a marvelous job of providing the history of Gilbert’s journey in designing the Pride Flag–a piece of history that is worth knowing, remembering, and celebrating.

Farewell, Gilbert Baker — a pioneer in pride and celebration!  Happy Pride to the entire Queer Communi

The Entitled Homeless

16 Apr

The number of people experiencing homelessness is growing exponentially as we watch and witness homeless camps popping up in both urban and rural areas across the United States. The entitlement I see with this community is astonishing! I’ve noticed that people experiencing homelessness have the audacity to want to be treated as human beings and want access to food, shelter, clothing, and access to hygiene and the ability to just go to the bathroom. There is an expectation that they be recognized, seen as human beings, perhaps even deign to make eye contact.

Sadly, the culture that is well established here is that we have created a narrative that not only vilifies people who are homeless, but we have managed to vilify poverty and to create insurmountable barriers for some of the most vulnerable people in our communities. I also want to acknowledge the disproportionality of targeted communities that intersect with being homeless–the overrepresentation of the LGBTQ community and people of color.

What prompted me to write this article was a string of recent events I witnessed. On my way back from Medford, Oregon where I was doing an equity and inclusion workshop, I stopped at the Burger King to grab a bite to eat before heading back to Portland. While sitting in the restaurant eating my lunch, I saw a young man enter the building and go directly to the bathroom. (I had just used the bathroom and it only accommodates one person at a time, so one has to lock the door) Behind me, there was a man that I would guess was in his mid 50’s, white, heterosexual, cisgender, with a shirt that said “Jesus loves me.” This man threw a fit that the young man got to the bathroom before him. He threw such a tantrum that he started banging on the bathroom door and demanded the young man get out. He then proceeded to demand to see the manager of the restaurant where he went into a rage that was so loud everyone could hear him. He screamed at the manager: “There’s some homeless kid that ran into the bathroom and now he has locked himself in there–he has no business being in there and you need to get him out!”

Of course, this sparked my own rage and the need to intercede. As I watched the manager and now two other employees banging on the bathroom door, I approached the manager and explained that first, the man throwing the tantrum does not know if the young man is homeless or not, and that secondly and more importantly, he has the right to use the bathroom regardless. Homeless people have the right to go to the bathroom! I would love to say that the manager and the two employees heard me and backed away to allow this person to use the bathroom with a modicum of dignity. Most unfortunately, they did not.

Last week, I was doing an equity workshop in downtown Eugene, Oregon. I went to get a coffee at the Starbucks. There are a critical number of homeless people around this particular Starbucks. I needed to use the bathroom and — quite disturbing to me — one has to have a code to use the bathroom. It is very clear that this now common practice of putting coded locks on bathroom facilities is to prevent people who are homeless from having access. I must confess, this whole absurd barrier is more than just mind boggling for me, for it speaks to the ugliness of just how awful humans can be. Even more tragically, these painful examples relate to just one key challenge faced by those experiencing homelessness. Our nation’s apparent intent to dehumanize them fully adds burden after burden.

More disturbing is that because of the recent overhaul of the social structuring of the United States in the grotesque guise called the Tax Cuts, we can certainly expect the homeless population to increase. All of this begs the question of how do we care for our communities? How do we address systems that create such horrific disparities in wealth and the hoarding of wealth? How painfully ironic that Paul Ryan, one of the chief architects of the Tax Cuts/Reform, has announced that he will retire at the age of 48 after stealing safe retirement from millions, compounding the homelessness crisis. Until we can purge the inhumane from the halls of government, how can we hope to treat all people with humanity? How do we assert our individual and collective voices to remind those who work in government are civil servants–just a side note–the ship has sailed on Scott Pruitt, Paul Ryan, and most of the GOP in their understanding the notion what it means to be a civil servant.

Take Action: There are things all of us can do. Find a way to get involved with a shelter that provides services without conditions. Donate money to some of the following organizations: Sisters of the Road, Street Roots, and Central City Concern.

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