Tag Archives: Class

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.

Advertisements

Happy Birthday, Howard Zinn

24 Aug

Howard_Zinn-Anniversary-2Howard Zinn would have been 92 years old today. Zinn passed away on January 27, 2010.  I remember listening to NPR and crying my eyes out. Zinn has been one of my heroes since I first read his People’s History of the United States in 1987.  Zinn has had such a powerful impact on my life that I would actually say he is, in part, why this blog exist and why I try to work towards global equity and equality.

Zinn was from a Jewish Austrian-Hungarian immigrant family.  He fought in WWII as a bombadier to try and end fascism.  His experience in the war influenced his anti-war stance. Zinn reflects on what some refer to as “collateral damage” and many of us call the loss of so many civilian lives in war:

I recalled flying on that mission, too, as deputy lead bombardier, and that we did not aim specifically at the ‘Skoda works’ (which I would have noted, because it was the one target in Czechoslovakia I had read about) but dropped our bombs, without much precision, on the city of Pilsen. Two Czech citizens who lived in Pilsen at the time told me, recently, that several hundred people were killed in that raid (that is, Czechs)—not five.

Zinn also influenced my energy around trying to unpack racism, sexism, homophobia, and all of the intersections of how we target and marginalize people.  In 1963 Spelman College dismissed the then tenured Zinn from his teaching position for his activism with students in the struggle against segregation.  I love Spelman College and I suspect this was a very messy and difficult decision. I try to look at the level of risk for the college and balance that with the amazing work being done by Zinn and the students.  Two of his students in particular are also heroes of mine, Alice Walker and Marian Wright Edelman.

If there are a few of you who are not familiar with Howard Zinn, I strongly encourage you to read People’s History of the United States and watch the amazing documentary, You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train.  

Thank you, Howard Zinn and Happy Birthday! I can only imagine how the world could be a better place for all with his inspiration.

 

MLK Day 2014: Public Service

20 Jan

Day of ServiceIt’s not just another holiday. In 1994, President Clinton signed legislation – put forward by Sen. Harris Wofford (D – PA) and Rep. John Lewis (D – GA) – which transformed the decade-old holiday. The goal was to challenge Americans to use the day for citizen action and volunteer service. As noted on the official site for the day, “It calls for Americans from all walks of life to work together to provide solutions to our most pressing national problems.” What a lovely lens of social justice. Sadly, our most pressing national problems remain: racism, homophobia, misogyny, poverty, and increasing numbers of people experiencing homelessness.

The legacy of Dr. King is multi-faceted. While he is known as a civil rights leader, he also maintained that these rights required the active engagement of all citizens. Civic engagement is a key component of being part of a democratic society.  There is great value in communities being interdependent.

In the era of standardized testing and teaching to those  tests rather than skills (a legacy from the George W years), civics has been sadly omitted as a part of regular curriculum. For the record, civics is “the study of the rights and duties of citizenship.” (Oxford Compact Dictionary) Social Studies is often only the residue of the rote names and dates approach to learning, leaving out the active role granted to and required of good citizens a la The Social Contract.

The Center for Civic Education is working hard to change this circumstance. The Campaign to Promote Civic Education effort is a fifty-state campaign (including the District of Columbia) aimed at restoring the civic mission of our nation’s schools by encouraging states and school districts to devote sustained and systematic attention to civic education from kindergarten through twelfth grade.

In Oregon, civics was dropped as a part of core curriculum in 1997. Recently, a concerned Legislature created the Civics and Financial Education Task Force to address the gaps in civic education. The final report of the task force articulates significant frustration with the current climate in education but does propose a small return to civics education beginning this school year.

As you enjoy the holiday, please give some thought to what you do to give back to your community. If you are not able to volunteer today, look for an opportunity in your area and commit some time. If there are young people in your life, take the time to make sure they are learning about their role in an active, meaningful democracy. And, just for fun, revisit some civic learning that might just make you smile, because being a part of a free society should also bring us joy. We must all stand in solidarity if we are to eradicate racism, homophobia, misogyny, and poverty.

The 50 Year War on Poverty: Where Are We Today?

16 Jan

LBJContinuing with my desire for an increased awareness around issues of poverty and class — which automatically addresses issues of race, gender, sexual orientation, and the many other intersections of identities — I thought it might be helpful to do some reflection since President Johnson initiated his War on Poverty 50 years ago.

As we reflect on issues of poverty and class (and all of the implications therein), it might be helpful to keep in mind that today over half of the members of the United States Congress are millionaires. Yes, leading the pack is our Republican Darrell (I Hate the Poor) Issa, with a net worth of approximately $464 million dollars. Of course, Republican Obstructionist Mitch McConnell also made the list of millionaires.  When those crafting policy are so far removed from the practical concerns of everyday people, it’s no wonder that they make so little effort to improve the lives of those people.

For years, polls have shown that the top priority for Americans is job creation. Congress has done virtually nothing. Instead, congressional Republicans have wasted money fighting the Affordable Care Act, a law that ensures that the poorest still have access to necessary health services. Trying to score Tea Points, they shut down the government, again disproportionately harming the poorest, both government employees and service users.

In a nation where the highest court has decided that corporations are people, it comes as no surprise that those conglomerate entities wield their power to collect more wealth. The result is an increasingly skewed distribution not just of wealth but of security. People who are scrambling for a basic living have precious little time to fight for their rights. That makes the recent fast food and Wal-Mart strikes even more impressive.

War on Poverty? It seems like poverty is winning, abetted by the authorities who should be bearing arms against it. How sad this makes me for the late President Johnson, who tried so hard to address issues of poverty by creating social programs that would help lift people out of poverty without judgement and shame.

Here we are now 50 years post Johnson’s initiatives according to the Pew Research Center:

Today, most poor Americans are in their prime working years In 2012, 57% of poor Americans were ages 18 to 64, versus 41.7% in 1959.

Far fewer elderly are poor: In 1966, 28.5% of Americans ages 65 and over were poor; by 2012 just 9.1% were. There were 1.2 million fewer elderly poor in 2012 than in 1966, despite the doubling of the total elderly population.

But childhood poverty persists: Poverty among children younger than 18 began dropping even before the War on Poverty. From 27.3% in 1959, childhood poverty fell to 23% in 1964 and to 14% by 1969. Since then, however, the childhood poverty rate has risen, fallen and, since the 2007-08 financial crisis, risen again.

Poverty is more evenly distributed, though still heaviest in the South: In 1969, 45.9% of poor Americans lived in the South, a region that accounted for 31% of the U.S. population at the time. At 17.9%, the South’s poverty rate was far above other regions. In 2012, the South was home to 37.3% of all Americans and 41.1% of the nation’s poor people; though the South’s poverty rate, 16.5%, was the highest among the four Census-designated regions, it was only 3.2 percentage points above the lowest (the Midwest).

Sadly, today we see our own version of the Hunger Games being played out.  The people with the most power have the most money and continue to strip benefits from those that need it the most.  Perhaps obliviousness is their greatest privilege.

Bigot of the Week Award: September 6, Texas National Guard

6 Sep
Bigot of the Week:Texas Weak, Texas Pathetic

Bigot of the Week:
Texas Weak, Texas Pathetic

Thank you to my dear friend and LGBT ally, Jennifer Carey, and Arturo Schultz, for inspiring me to write about this week’s Bigot.  Despite the Death of DOMA, Texas wants to create its own laws and refuses to abide by the Supreme Court’s decision. Recent actions by the Texas National Guard refuse to treat LGBT people as equal citizens of the United States.  Yet again we see Texas on the wrong side of history.  Lest we forget the misogynistic Rick Perry beaten back by the amazing Wendy Davis.

Sadly, The Texas National Guard refused to process requests from same-sex couples for benefits on Tuesday,  September 3, 2013.  Despite a Pentagon directive to honor these requests, they tried to justify this discrimination by citing the state constitution’s ban on gay marriage. Interestingly enough, Maj. Gen. John Nichols, the commanding general of Texas Military Forces, wrote in a letter, …”the Texas Constitution defines marriage as between a man and a woman, his state agency couldn’t process applications from gay and lesbian couples.”  However, in this rather convoluted state of confusion, he added that ” the Texas National Guard, Texas Air Guard and Texas State Guard would not deny anyone benefits.”  How to reconcile these statements is unclear. And incidentally, what about the rest of the LGBT population in Texas?

To my surprise and delight, National guard officials in Florida, Michigan and Oklahoma – all states that ban marriage equality for LGBT couples – said they will follow federal law.  I say with a great sigh, when will the rest of the South and the rest of country abide by Federal Law and work towards equality and equity for all LGBT people?

While I am able to enjoy and appreciate the steps towards progress, I cannot rest in that place. When do each of us actively work to stand in solidarity with all targeted people? When do we say enough to racism, homophobia, misogyny, and when do we pull together to eradicate poverty and look at a more equitable distribution of wealth?

Number 2 Hero of the Year Award 2011: Occupy Movement

30 Dec

Number 2 Hero of 2011

Thank you to the overwhelming number of TSM readers for nominating the Occupy Movement for Hero of the Year!  How I understand the Occupy Movement is that finally the 99% woke up and spoke truth to power–the absurd distribution of power and wealth in the United States must come to an end.  Of course, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission certainly brought home the point that America was officially for sale.  Extending the Bush tax cuts to the top 2% of Americans just added insult to injury.  We can thank the Fecal Five for selling out America.

While I only attended a dozen Occupy Portland demonstrations, I was consistently impressed that people were getting the message out about the maniacal distribution of wealth and power, despite the heroic efforts of the media to vilify the movement.  My heart was also warmed when many of my cohort of social workers withdrew their money from the big banks and put it credit unions–go social workers!

My hope is that the Occupy Movement will continue in its various incarnations and will eventually affect real change in how wealth and power are distributed–that humanity will prevail over greed.

Flashback 2010: Number 2 Hero of 2010 was Bernie Sanders.

%d bloggers like this: