Tag Archives: Partisan Politics

Walking in Gratitude: Thanksgiving 2017

23 Nov

While I am trying to walk in gratitude and be thankful right now, I must confess that it is a struggle. I am exceedingly grateful that I had successful cancer surgery and for all of the many people in my life who have been so loving and so supportive of me! And, I am struggling that now they want me to do six months of chemo. My struggle regarding chemo pales in comparison with how I am struggling to survive living in the United States with a bizarre monster for a president, and today I am committed to being in a place of love and gratitude.

Trump’s support of Roy Moore is nothing less than monstrous. Alas, for today, I offer an invitation to all people: invite some joy and some gratitude. For those of us who are truly fatigued by the Trump administration  and his putting party before country, can we know that we are not going to change the hearts or minds of his base supporters. What we can do is show up in bigger numbers to the polls.

But for today, can we tap into shared humanity and be grateful? I am going to try and hold the messiness and the tension of the horrific ways in which we have treated and still treat native peoples, while also walking in extraordinary gratitude for the amazing and lovely people in my life — people who provide light and love and sustenance for my soul, for my heart is full.

I will hold the tension of our history and invite joy at the same time. I am reflecting on how we collectively, as Americans, conveniently choose to forget the genocide of the native peoples living in North America – the use of bio-warfare?  Yes, multi-generations of white folk have benefitted from the slaughtering of indigenous populations in North America and stealing land. It is ironic that the early survival of the Plymouth colony depended so heavily on the agricultural and fishing advice of the Wampanoag. To all the GOP governors who say “no” to Syrian refugees, I remind you that you wouldn’t have states to defend in bellicose, racist, and — yes — unconstitutional rants if a certain set of religious refugees had been treated similarly 500 years ago.

The whole idea of a “first Thanksgiving” is historically murky at best, with both religious and civil harvest festivals easily traceable to the Spanish in St. Augustine and British colonies in Jamestown and Plymouth. The native populations also had histories of harvest festivals, thus rendering a colonizer’s claim of “first” another in a series of misappropriations. Regular Thanksgiving celebrations as fixed civil events became common much later, dating to the 1660s.

As with so much of early colonial American history, most of what we “remember” is filtered through centuries of creative reconstruction: bucolic paintings, myths of noble savages and honest oppressed British outcasts, grade school songs and pageants. It is understandable that we prefer not to dwell on our collective responsibility for the decimation of whole populations, but it is an important part of our nation’s history. The colonizers’ relationship with the native populations was complex (and occassionally grateful) but seldom benefitted the natives and almost certainly did not involve everybody sharing a lovely meal around a table in peace.

Let us not forget this was no mere land grab but a decimation of Holocaust proportions. Our mistreatment of the indigenous peoples in North America went on well into the 20th Century with the Termination Act, Allotment, and the creation of Boarding Schools where white people thought their job was to “kill the Indian to save the man.”

The root idea of Thanksgiving — shared by the Europeans and the indigenous peoples — as a celebration is a good one. Be thankful for what you have; celebrate the cherished loved ones in your life; take time to remember what is good and bountiful with no expectations of gain other than shared love and thanks. Let us move forward as a nation, correctly learning, remembering, and growing from our history. Let us work hard to return to this spirit of Thanksgiving. It need not be buried in any trivia: upcoming shopping orgies (conspicuous consumption), 437 sporting events, overindulgence for its own sake, or cute “historical” imagery that overlooks a complex history.

We all have people and events in our lives worthy of celebration; that is what we should use today to be truly thankful for. I hope everyone reading this blog will be able to spend time with cherished loved ones, be it families of origin or families and communities we create. I leave you with this a song by Emeli Sandé, Highs and Lows, for I am so grateful for all the people in my life that love and support me through the good and the difficult times.

Rep. Chris Garrett Chimes in on Debt Ceiling and Senator Hatfield

10 Aug

Rep. Chris Garrett

I first met Rep. Chris Garrett when I was lobbying for Planned Parenthood at the State Capitol.  I must confess, I was a bit caught off guard by how young he looks, but then I remembered he is not that young, I’m just that old. What impressed me most was his eagerness to be engaged and willingness to talk with us.  As a gay man and a feminist, I feel fortunate to have him as my state representative.

Rep. Garrett was gracious enough to visit with me about the Debt Ceiling crisis and the recent passing of Senator Mark Hatfield. Just to show you how down to earth he really is, he called me at home and said, “Michael, hey this is Chris.”  How nice to have an elected official that not only works to represent me, but strives to make people feel safe and heard.

How did you feel when you heard about the bill passed regarding the Debt Ceiling? 

Relieved.  I felt they would always get there in the end, but the whole episode has been very discouraging because it seems that with every passing year there are more people in Congress who would rather stick to a pure ideological position than make the compromises necessary to govern. The fact that they were willing to go all the way to the brink was scary. Some even said a default would “not be that big of a deal.” Too many Republicans are playing to the very extreme, uncompromising wing of their party.

How will the bill that was passed affect Oregonians?

It depends on how the federal spending cuts are implemented.  Like all states, Oregon relies heavily on federal dollars for certain programs like Medicaid. Any decrease in federal entitlement spending would have an effect here in Oregon just like anywhere else.  Unfortunately, spending cuts will affect the very people who need the most help getting through this recession.

Can you share your feelings about the loss of Senator Hatfield?

I admired Senator Hatfield and I think he would be horrified to see what has happened in the past few weeks.  He was an example of someone who could have very strong, principled views, yet recognize the legitimacy of other points of view enough to work together and find common ground.  At the end of the day, he knew that it was about governing, not just political positioning.  That type of thinking seems to be more and more rare in Washington.

Do you feel Oregon is working well?

In some ways.  The state is still hurting very badly economically, and we need to put some serious work into reforming our systems of public finance.  But we had a pretty good legislative session here in Oregon and we do have people crossing party lines to work together, far more than we’ve seen in Congress.  .

I want to thank Rep. Chris Garrett for taking the time to visit with me and for working to combat partisanship and actually providing leadership by working for the betterment of his constituents.

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