Tag Archives: Oregon

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.

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?

Hero of the Week Award: Sen. Chris Murphy

17 Jun

Chris MurphyThis has been an extraordinarily painful week for the LGBTQ community, in the wake of last Sunday’s massacre. If it is possible for something good to come from all of this hate, homophobia, and fear, I hope part of the healing will come from gun control reform.

Kudos to Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn), for leading the filibuster on the senate floor to expand gun control policies with two specific measures. Yes, this is the very least the senate can do in response to the massacre in Orlando. As a side note, I need to point out that this is also very tied into race, gender, homophobia, and misogyny. The Pulse was — and will be again — a safe space for LGBTQ people, mostly queer people of color. The United States seems to feel it is acceptable to regulate women’s bodies, why can we not regulate guns? Finally the NRA’s bedfellow, Mitch McConnell, has acquiesced and agreed to hold votes for the proposed amendment.

It grows ever wearisome to hear the call for prayers every time we have people murdered by guns. We do not need the prayers, we need gun control! Sadly, I have to offer a dishonorable mention to Florida Governor, Rick Scott, a.k.a Lord Voldemort. When reporters asked Scott if there was anything that could be done on a policy level to prevent future shootings like this, Scott (who has put forth enormous energy to relax gun control laws (there is no waiting period currently to buy the AR-15) replied: “We can pray for the victims, pray for the families and pray this never happens again.” How’s that working so far?

There are at least 27 reported gun deaths EVERY DAY in the United States. The AR-15 was used in the following massacres: Orlando, Florida–49 killed, 53 wounded; Aurora, Colorado, 12 killed, 70 wounded; Sandy Hook, Connecticut, 26 killed; Santa Monica, California, 5 killed, 4 wounded; Roseburg, Oregon, 9 killed; San Bernadino, California, 14 killed, 22 wounded. Maybe its just me, but prayers don’t seem to be doing much to change things. Maybe we need action, such as adopting expansive gun control measures? Want that to happen? Get out and vote!

In addition to Murphy, I want to acknowledge and give an honorable mention to the following Democratic Senators for finally creating significant resistance against the NRA and pushing for greater gun control policies: Richard Blumenthal, and Cory Booker (NJ),  Dick Durbin (IL), Bill Nelson (FL), Chuck Schumer (NY), Joe Manchin (WV), Ben Cardin (MD), Ed Markey (MA), Patrick Leahy (VT), Al Franken (MN), Patty Murray (WA), Gary Peters (MI), Bob Casey (PA), Ron Wyden (OR), Elizabeth Warren (MA), Jeff Merkley (OR), Bob Menendez (NJ), Jeanne Shaheen (NH), Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), Claire McCaskill (MO), Mark Warner (VA), Amy Klobuchar (MN), Barbara Mikulski (MD), Sherrod Brown (OH), and counting. Yes, I’m very glad to see that both of Oregon’s senators were on this list!

The constitution is a living document and the flaws of the second amendment seem glaringly obvious. Given that no women and no people of color had any representation or voice in drafting the original document, it would stand to reason that this document needs further tweaking to represent more voices.

If you do not see your senator on this list, please contact them and let your voice be heard. I wish everyone a Happy Pride Month and let us not give into fear but share our love and solidarity!

Labor Day 2015: Much Despised by the GOP

7 Sep

Labor Day 2015Labor Day was started in 1882 by labor unions, but it would be many more years before it would be recognized as a Federal Holiday. Oregon was the first state to recognize and honor Labor Day in 1887.  Finally in 1894, it became a national holiday on the first Monday in September under the Cleveland Administration.  Congress passed it unanimously, a very rare event indeed. Today we have an opportunity to reflect on why we need to celebrate the laborer and to look at the maldistribution of wealth in the United States. It’s particularly important to note how all of the GOP presidential candidates show nothing but contempt, disdain, and even disgust for the laborer.

Reflecting back, the United States can proudly celebrate the influence of its labor unions and how they have helped to protect the too often marginalized and voiceless.  The Triangle Shirtwaist Company Fire proved there was still a great deal of work to be accomplished by the labor movement.  Labor Unions also worked to protect children and helped to establish an eight hour work day, fair wage laws, and breaks for safety and meals — that whole notion of having a weekend.

Sadly, America seems to be losing its appreciation of Labor Unions while privileging profit over people.  President Clinton left a nasty legacy called NAFTA and perpetuated a culture of vilifying those in poverty.

Many of us have been working in movements to increase the minimum wage to $15.00 an hour. This would be just a very small movement forward and still does not address a living wage. Sadly, the common theme from all of the GOP candidates has been nothing less than hostile, as they all seem to subscribe to the false notion of a meritocracy.

We hear Republicans bleat about jobs and the economy but do nothing, while at the state level we see a nefarious and dangerous Scott Walker are dismantling unions and isolating workers from the political process.  We have seen Walker, Christie, Kasich, and Jindal bash and target teachers and unions, rather than looking at how do we redistribute wealth in an equitable way that helps to lift people out of poverty. Please take a look at this short video on the distribution of wealth; this is what we should desperately focus on and how every GOP candidate is on the wrong side of history here.

Labor Day isn’t just an excuse for a long weekend or a chance to grill an extra hot dog before autumn sets in. It’s a chance to reflect on the work that is done at all levels of our society and the value of all that labor. It’s a chance to celebrate the collaboration that makes work better and working conditions safer. In the words of the great Joe Hill (as sung by Billy Bragg, thanks to my husband for the choice of Bragg):

Now I long for the morning that they realise
Brutality and unjust laws can not defeat us
But who’ll defend the workers who cannot organise
When the bosses send their lackeys out to cheat us?

Money speaks for money, the Devil for his own
Who comes to speak for the skin and the bone
What a comfort to the widow, a light to the child

There is power in a Union.

Happy Labor Day to all of our brothers and sisters that have to work today and that have no pension, no health benefits, and are at the poverty line.

Dr. Monica Wehby, the Hollow Candidate

22 Aug

Monica WehbyThe 2014 mid-term elections have conservatives salivating, and the Tea Party holds out hope they can gets folks to drink their rancid brew. With many Congressional Democrats retiring and a handful of red-state Democrats seen as highly vulnerable, the GOP is working hard to retake the Senate. If they succeed, President Obama’s final two years in office will make his first six look like a productive picnic. Despite the friendly playing field, conservative operatives are trying not to take anything for granted, noting the many deeply flawed candidates that have cost them probable seats in the past two cycles. (Remember these charm free folks: Todd Akin, Richard Mourdock, Christine O’Donnell, Sharron Angle?) To hedge their bets, they’re looking at less likely pickups and dumping huge amounts of money on some long-shots. The amount of money being poured into GOP hopeful Monica Wehby’s campaign is disturbing. I suspect there are many countries that run on budgets that are much less than what the Koch brothers are pouring into campaigns such as Wehby’s.

The support for Wehby is perplexing. She’s running against Senator Jeff Merkley, the first man to receive the Marilyn Epstein Pro-Choice Champion Award from the Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon, who is finishing his first term. He’s popular, effective, and honest, but as a Freshman may be vulnerable. Despite the conventional wisdom, Oregon is NOT a blue state, but rather a very purple state with a slight Democratic edge in statewide races. The Koch Brothers and their ilk (The top 1%) have decided that this makes Oregon a potential pickup, so they found themselves a candidate.

Sadly, they did a worse job of vetting their pick than Sen. John McCain (R – Angrytown) did when he chose half-term half-wit Sarah Palin as a running mate. Dr. Monica Wehby is a surgeon and a political newcomer. In a “throw the bums out” year with Congressional approval ratings at an all-time low, this telegenic candidate seems promising. Until she tries to pick a position on, well, anything. Sadly, a number of advertisements against Senator Merkley  are already in full swing.

Before winning the GOP primary, Wehby made headlines for her history of stalking ex-boyfriends. She spun that as proof that she’s a determined person who would work hard to get what she wants in the Senate. The two different and independent stalking cases are pretty serious and my first thought was: “Oy! I only hope she does not have a gun on her.”  She also gained some notoriety for fleeing press conferences and debates once she’d used up her carefully crafted talking points. When pressed about LGBT rights in a TV interview, she kept talking about marriage equality, even though the question was about anti-discrimination laws. She says she’s pro-life but would support a woman’s right to choose while celebrating laws like “partial birth” abortion bans. She says she supports equal pay for women while saying that laws that actually enforce equal pay are bad because they would make employers hire more men to avoid lawsuits. Really. Stammering, stunned, and wide-eyed, she clearly isn’t comfortable taking a position that hasn’t been fed to her by the Kochs and their cronies. Again, I am reminded of Charles Durning’s performance of Dance A Little Sidestep from The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.

Suddenly that Koch money is showing up on the airwaves. Wehby’s new ads are everywhere, trying to make her sound like a smart fiscal conservative. She attacks Sen. Merkley for voting to raise the debt ceiling and for opposing a balanced budget amendment. With a homey but deeply flawed analogy between the Federal budget and household money management, she manages to avoid any real fiscal facts. Raising the debt ceiling was critical to avoiding another, worse financial meltdown if the US were seen to ignore its obligations. The debt that Sen. Merkley wisely voted to keep paying is mostly the result of the fiscal ineptitude of George W. Bush and two pointless, costly wars. The balanced budget amendment is a nightmarish concoction that would hamstring the government. Economists both liberal and conservative decry it as a disaster that should be avoided at all costs. As an experienced legislator, Sen. Merkley knows this. I continue to be shocked and mortified that such falsehoods are allowed to be aired!  I know that in Georgia the Koch money is spreading lies and attacking Democrat hopeful Michelle Nunn. Koch money is fueling elections across the entire country.

It’s clear that Dr. Wehby is intended to be the anti-Merkley. That’s certainly true. Sen Merkley is an experienced, talented legislator with a deep understanding of the issues and a true passion for the needs of Oregon’s citizens. Monica Wehby is a shallow political puppet pursuing a Senate seat just because. Oregon’s choice this November is clear.

Update: Wow! I’m rather appalled and nonplussed to see Ben West doing a commercial supporting Wehby. Mr. West, I’m curious as to how you would support Wehby when she was NOT pro-marriage equality until after it was a fait accompli?  I’m also curious that she was not at Gay Pride nor has she attended a Basic Rights Oregon function?  In the commercial you assert that she is for all families, but it seems rather obvious that she is only for white wealthy families, and now you her token gay friend.

Marriage Equality Makes It To Oregon At Last!

19 May

Oregon-United-for-MarriageMay 19, 2014 what a lovely, historic day for the state of Oregon and for the country. The Honorable Judge McShane made it clear that same sex couples should enjoy the privileges of marriage.  This is a time to rejoice and celebrate, for I believe that the liberation of LGBT people only contributes to the liberation of cisgender heterosexuals.  Here we have a decision that has a far reaching ripple effect. Marriage equality by design addresses issues of sexual orientation, race, class, privilege, power, and the intersections of all of these identities.

Well Done!  It looks like Robert and I need to get in line to get a marriage license.  Today we celebrate and tomorrow we pick up the torch to continue our dedication to expanding civil rights for all.

The ERA and Oregon

6 May

ERAToday I would like to address the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) and Oregon.  My dear friend and social justice advocate, Nancy Campbell Mead, was kind enough to visit with me and talk about how the ERA benefits all Oregonians. I have known Nancy for five years and I am consistently amazed and grateful for her voice and dedication for social justice. Nancy stands in solidarity with those who face oppression. I was elated to learn that she has now taken up the torch for the ERA.  The message of equality for women is especially timely and poignant given that the House of Representatives just voted against equal pay for women.

Nancy, what will the ERA do for Oregon?

 The language of the proposed ERA is simple:

(1) Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the state of Oregon or by any political subdivision in this state on a count of sex.

(2) The Legislative Assembly shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this section.

(3)  Nothing in this section shall diminish a right otherwise available to persons under section 20 of this Article or any other provision of this Constitution.

Equality for women is not currently expressly guaranteed in the Oregon Constitution.  Nor is it guaranteed in the federal constitution (The federal ERA, though passed in both houses of Congress, was only ratified by 35 of the necessary 38 states; there is currently a renewed effort to get it ratified).  By passing the ERA we can make certain that Oregon women and girls have their equality written into the state’s constitution.  Twenty-two (22) states have ERA’s; Oregon does not.  Oregon women do have substantial protections through legislation and caselaw, but neither provide the security that the Constitution provides.  Both legislation and caselaw are much more “fluid” than is the Constitution; legislation and caselaw are constantly changing, but it takes a vote of the people to modify the Constitution.  Explicit constitutional guarantees of  sex equality provide legislators and judges a mandate to treat sex-based discrimination as highly suspect and provide the framework under which laws are written and court cases are decided.

How can we get this on the ballot for November of 2014?

 In order to qualify for the ballot we need 116,284 valid signatures by July 3, 2014.

We need everyone’s help NOW in making sure we have enough valid signatures to qualify.  With our statewide polling at over 82% support from Oregonians we know the ERA will pass if we get it on the ballot!

Here is how you can help us achieve this goal so all Oregonians have equality expressed in the constitution:

Volunteer:

Collect signatures, host house parties, speak to your organizations…  For more on how you can volunteer, email: Info@VoteERA.org

Donate:https://secure.c-esystems.com/voteera/donation.aspx

Nancy, what else would you like to share with people regarding the ERA? How is this a social justice issue?

Having an ERA in Oregon’s Constitution is important.  How important?  Just read these quotes from three of our nation’s leaders:

Former President Jimmy Carter:  He calls the treatment of women and girls “worse than any war we’ve had in history.”

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg:  “If I could choose an amendment to add to the Constitution, it would be the Equal Rights Amendment… I think we have achieved that [equality] through legislation, but legislation can be repealed, it can be altered.  So I would like my granddaughters, when they pick up the Constitution, to see that notion – that women and men are persons of equal stature – I’d like them to see that is a basic principle of our society.”   Nancy added that:  Bader Ginsburg was referring to the U.S. Constitution, but certainly the same argument can be made in favor of an ERA in the Oregon Constitution.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:   “Some people say, ‘It’s [the ERA] only symbolic,’” Clinton said. “Well, yes, but symbolism is important,  and it can also be a great message and even lead to actions that further equality, so I think if you can have that kind of debate here in this state [Oregon], you might be starting something beyond your borders.”  Nancy added that:  While I do not for a minute think the ERA is “only symbolic” I do agree with Clinton that “symbolism is important”.  Because it has been many years since any state has approved an ERA, Oregon passing a state ERA will hopefully serve as an impetus to get the federal ERA “rolling” again.  As Clinton said, we “might be starting something beyond your[our] borders.”

Having the Equal Rights Amendment in Oregon’s Constitution is important because it will mean future generations of women and girls can read our constitution and know that the people of Oregon believed that their rights were important enough to secure them in the constitution which can only be changed by a vote of the people.  The legislation and caselaw we currently have are generally good, but they are subject to being changed by the legislature or a judicial decision.  Expressly stated constitutional protections are much more secure.

I want to thank my friend Nancy for taking the time to visit with me and talk about the ERA.

Call to Action: Please click on the links above to get involved and stand in solidarity.

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