Posts Tagged ‘politics’


“Who controls the past controls the future.”

March 7, 2017

Today, Dr. Ben Carson, the new Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, jaw-droppingly said this:

“There were other immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder for less. But they too had a dream that one day their sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, great grandsons, great granddaughters might pursue prosperity and happiness in this land.”

The reaction has been swift, incredulous, and mocking. Slaves weren’t immigrants, WAR & CONFLICT BOOK ERA:  CIVIL WAR/BACKGROUND:  SLAVERY & ABOLITIONISMpursuing the American Dream. They weren’t working “harder for less,” they were considered to be PROPERTY, they were allowed none of the opportunity, none of the freedom, that this country prides itself on. Slavery was not pursuit of the American Dream. Slavery was our original sin, the great stain on our national conscience, an abomination. How could anyone, much less a black neurosurgeon, say something so ridiculously wrong?!?

But while I get people’s dismay, I just do not get the shock. This isn’t Ben Carson being an idiot. This is Ben Carson repeating a Republican talking point that’s been gaining momentum for years. A couple of years ago, Texas approved textbooks that referred to slaves as immigrants. Last year, when Michelle Obama dared mention that the White House was built by slaves, Bill O’Reilly rushed to claim that those slaves were well-fed and well-housed; contemporary accounts say that that was absolutely not the case, but regardless, it’s the same toxic suggestion that slavery wasn’t that bad. That it was alright, if slaves were well cared for. The argument that somehow the realities of slavery – being bought and sold at auction, ripped from your children, beaten, raped, denied the right to learn, denied basic bodily autonomy, denied your own name, being forced to labor and denied any compensation – could be made okay, as long as we believe the slaves were housed and fed adequately.

I used to think it was guilt that drove some people to sugarcoat the horror of slavery, guilt and an unhealthy dose of “American Exceptionalism” taken to an extreme (if America did it, it can’t be that bad). But now I feel differently.

None of this is accidental. There’s diversion, there’s obfuscation, and there’s a constant, relentless attack on reality, on science, on history, and on our capacity for outrage. As Stephen Colbert once joked, “Truth has a well-known liberal bias” – which is exactly why the GOP is trying to destroy our understanding of what is true. None of this can be laughed off, because it builds over time, until all of the parameters have changed while we were standing still.

16996196_1288946147879217_1699203292099169521_nCarson didn’t misspeak, any more than Trump misspoke when he said “You think we’re so innocent?” Carson is taking this argument and making it mainstream, to make us more accepting of the unacceptable. The hyperwealthy would love openly legalized slavery. Already, all of us own things that were made by prison labor in our booming for-profit detention centers, by undocumented people who are exploited for next to nothing, or by slave labor around the world. An economy that only serves the wealthiest depends on slavery. The Trump administration, and the GOP controlled Congress, are only interested in making the rich richer, and to that end, they are interested in warping our past, so that we aren’t outraged when it becomes our present, and our future. If they can convince us that slaves were living the American Dream, they might convince us that children in ICE custody harvesting tomatoes are lucky, because they’re housed and fed. Constant Vigilance, my friends. Never laugh so hard at the idiocy that you don’t see it’s part of their agenda, that they are trying to rewrite our reality.



October 8, 2016

This is an amazing day, watching the Republican Party descend into chaos. By the time I’m done writing this, Trump may have been forced out. WHY? Over this? And isn’t it deliciously ironic that the GOP might kick Trump off the ticket because he said things that aren’t politically correct?

Don’t get me wrong – when I heard Trump saying that he can get away with whatever he wants with women – kissing them uninvited, grabbing them by the pussy – because he’s a star, I wanted to vomit. I was disgusted by his sense of entitlement to women’s bodies. I was horrified that he obviously thought he was being hilarious when he was describing sexual assault. And I was saddened because, yeah. He’s not wrong. Our society absolutely lets celebrities get away with sexual assault (just ask Bill Cosby). The audio file repulsed me – but I wasn’t the least bit surprised.

The reaction from the press and from the Republican stalwarts that they are shocked – shocked! – that Donald Trump is a misogynist piece of shit is a bit too much to swallow. C’mon, people. Donald Trump has made it very clear that he sees women only as sex objects. He ranks us all from 1 to 10. He appeared in a Playboy video ogling twin playmates. He cruelly demeans women he finds unattractive. You’ve seen him in footage, leering at 19 year old pageant participants, or on his reality tv show, making lewd jokes at the expense of the female contestants. You’ve heard and seen him with Don Imus and Howard Stern, being crude and vile and entitled, describing the threat of STDs as his “personal Vietnam.” For goodness sake, we’ve all even seen the clips (multiple) of him saying that he would date Ivanka if he weren’t married, and he weren’t her father (in that order). You’ve seen the snippet where Robin Leach asked him how his daughter Tiffany – then ONE YEAR OLD – was like her mother, and he says that this baby has Marla’s legs. (“We don’t know whether or not she’s got ‘this part’ yet, but time will tell.”)

This is a man who sees women, ALL women – including his daughters, EVEN WHEN THEY WERE BABIES – as sexual objects. Of course he feels entitled to grab, kiss, and take women. That is how rape culture works. When you see women as objects, and not as actual people, it’s easy.

Yesterday, one after another, the party faithful expressed their disgust at this new, entirely predictable revelation. Today, the endorsements are being pulled, Pence is in hiding, and the party leaders are scrambling to force Trump out, even though it’s far too late to take him off the ballot. So back to the question at hand – why was this the tipping point? He has always been a pig; this is not news. But rats flee a sinking ship, and Trump is going to lose. If he had held his own in the debate, if he were polling even, they’d still be solidly supporting him, shrugging this off as old news, and just boys being boys. The reality that Trump is lewd and vile and lecherous, as well as racist, ignorant, and fascist, and Putin’s stooge, and quite likely mentally ill, was all somehow acceptable to the GOP. Republican leaders are abandoning Trump now because they finally realized he’s going to lose. And losing? That is unforgivable.


A Study in Eggplant

October 19, 2012

I am wearing my awesome purple dress today, both because it is awesome, and because it is purple. Today is Spirit Day, a day of awareness of the effects of bullying. In honor thereof, I’m not going  to talk about the presidential race today, because issues that impact the LGBT community are still not accorded their proper due and are being decided piecemeal, state-by-state.

I live in Tennessee, land of “Don’t Say Gay;” home of state lawmakers who try to carve an exception for “faith-based bullying” into anti-bullying measures; and holding pen for lunatic State Rep. Richard Floyd, a man so intensely transphobic he introduced a bill that would make it a crime in Tennessee to use a public restroom or dressing room other than the one designated for the sex on your birth certificate, convinced it is necessary to keep the (heterosexual) public safe. Floyd didn’t’ try to justify his bill with anything OTHER than hate:

“It could happen here,” Floyd said. “I believe if I was standing at a dressing room and my wife or one of my daughters was in the dressing room and a man tried to go in there — I don’t care if he thinks he’s a woman and tries on clothes with them in there — I’d just try to stomp a mudhole in him and then stomp him dryDon’t ask me to adjust to their perverted way of thinking and put my family at risk. We cannot continue to let these people dominate how society acts and reacts. Now if somebody thinks he’s a woman and he’s a man and wants to try on women’s clothes, let him take them into the men’s bathroom or dressing room.”

I had heard of Floyd and his unabashed hatred of the LGBT community, back in January when this bill was proposed. In the interim, he had faded from my consciousness. Like “Don’t Say Gay” and “License to Bully,” the “Bathroom Bill” was introduced, made Tennessee a national (international?) laughingstock, and faded away without becoming state law (thank god). But recently I started working for the campaign of a wonderful State Rep, part of the thin blue line that keeps Rachel Maddow from establishing a permanent Nashville bureau, and I started thinking about what would happen if those bills actually had become law. As I meet with her supporters – union members, leaders in the states LGBT rights movement, and honest-to-god Tennessee feminists – it restores so much of my faith in my home state, and motivates me to work harder to fix our broken state house. Personhood is coming up soon, and we only just beat back a disastrous Alabama-copycat immigration bill, and Richard Floyd is still a sitting rep.

Still, nothing prepared me for how I’d feel after talking to Christy.[1] Christy is a transsexual woman. She works overnight shift at a big box store, and is getting her degree part time. She’s on Metro buses two and half hours a day because she can’t afford a car. She has midterms next week. And yet she was desperate to find a way to work for my candidate, because my candidate has worked so hard for her, and people like her. As we tried to find a way that she could help in spite of her crazy schedule, our conversation turned to the horror of some of the bills proposed in our legislature last term. Christy’s voice broke when she spoke of Richard “Stomp ‘em” Floyd, and suddenly I saw all of this in a different light. I’m pretty empathetic, and of course I had been horrified and outraged at Floyd’s hateful words, but I wasn’t hurt by them, as Christie was. Richard Floyd is an elected official of my home state, and he feels it’s okay to threaten violence against people different from him. He feels its okay to ridicule and slander the LGBT community. He uses his position to spew hatred, and his power to try to enshrine bigotry into our laws. His legislation is aimed at humiliating people like Christy, and his words are aimed at negating her right to exist. One of these people is a sick, festering sore on humanity, and it ISN’T the woman riding the bus home at dawn to crash for a couple of hours before going to classes, who only wants to be left in peace.


I am a straight ally, and I stand against state-sponsored bullying. I am a straight ally, and I stand against lawmakers who work to make bigotry and prejudice the law of the land. So today I’m wearing my awesome purple dress for Christy. I am working extra hard at getting my candidate elected. Christy is making phone calls for my candidate when she has a few minutes to spare in her crazy day. I am a straight ally, and I will do whatever I can to make my state a better place for all of its people.

[1] “Christy” is not her real name; I don’t know her personally, and so don’t want to say anything that could come back to hurt her. This is also why I’m not naming my candidate by name here; these are my opinions alone.


“Sad and Pathetic.” Yeah, that about sums it up…

September 12, 2012

Mitt Romney is a shit-stirring asshat. Of this, there can no longer be any doubt. Today, he saw fit to insert politics into an international crisis, using the murder of four American diplomats to attack President Obama’s foreign policy. He is rightly being criticized for his attempt to undermine the President in a moment when all Americans should join together; rather than backing down, though, Romney’s congratulating himself on subverting Obama’s position.

In case you somehow missed it, here’s the quick backstory on what Romney did that has every reputable news organization up and in arms. A reckless and incendiary filmmaker made a movie attacking Islam and Mohammed, clips of which were shown on television in the Middle East. Reckless and enflamed mobs rioted in the streets of Egypt and Libya. The Cairo Embassy was besieged, the Libyan Embassy was breached, and four diplomats in Libya were murdered, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.

Yesterday, as events began to unfold in Cairo, a the U.S. embassy in Egypt put out the following statement, in an attempt to calm the situation:

U.S. Embassy Condemns Religious Incitement

September 11, 2012

The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.

That’s it. A rational response calculated to defuse tensions, and maybe – just maybe – to keep the people in the Cairo embassy safe. President Obama did not issue a statement while events were still unfolding, but Mitt Romney did. Last night, he issued a statement, saying, “It’s disgraceful that the Obama administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.” Go back, reread that statement issued by our embassy in Cairo. Find anything disgraceful in it. Still, the GOP chimed in, with Reince Priebus also ascribing the Cairo statement to the President:

Something’s sad and pathetic, Reince, but I don’t think it’s the President….

Speaking of Obama, first thing this morning, after all the facts were known, the President of the United States – the only President at the moment – issued a statement “strongly condemning the outrageous attacks,” and highlighting the “extraordinary service and sacrifice” of those who were murdered.

While the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, we must all unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence that took the lives of these public servants.

This was still not good enough for would-be Commander-in-Chief Romney. In a bizarre press conference, Romney weighed in, as if during a campaign we have two Presidents offering equally valid responses to international crises. At this presser, Romney said the following:

I also believe the administration was wrong to stand by a statement sympathizing with those who had breached our embassy in Egypt, instead of condemning their actions….

I think it’s a — a — a terrible course to — for America to — to stand in apology for our values. That instead, when our grounds are being attacked and being breached, that the first response of the United States must be outrage at the breach of the sovereignty of our nation.

An apology for America’s values is never the right course….

Simply put, having an embassy which is — has been breached and has protesters on its grounds, having violated the sovereignty of the United States, having that embassy reiterate [SIC] a statement effectively apologizing for the right of free speech is not the right course for an administration….

I spoke out when the key fact that I referred to was known, which was that the Embassy of the United States issued what appeared to be an apology for American principles. That was a mistake.

“An apology for America’s values,” or for “free speech”? Where is that in the embassy statement – which, AGAIN, was not issued by the White House, but by our diplomats in Cairo (before the Embassy itself was besieged)? It isn’t there, of course. But the GOP is in love with the fiction that our UnAmerican (black) President keeps apologizing for America to the rest of the world, and they seized upon the Cairo Embassy’s statement as proof. So what is the “American value” that the diplomats in Cairo failed to adequately defend?  The Cairo statement condemns the film which so upset the mob.  The movie is being promoted by Terry Jones, the Florida “pastor” who brought us last year’s threatened massive Koran burning. It apparently suggests that Mohammed was a pedophile, compares him to a donkey, and claims many of Islam’s most revered figures were child-molesters. The film is a blatant attempt to derail U.S. relations with the Islamic world, and was designed to be as profoundly offensive to devout Muslims as it could possibly be. The right to free speech is, as as the Embassy statement affirms, universal, but abusing that right in this way is worthy of condemnation. This movie – this crude attempt to destabilize a region, to mock and deride a faith and culture – is the “free speech” Romney feels the administration should never “apologize” for.

Even as Cairo was rocked by riots, our embassy staff there upheld the best American values. They reaffirmed the fundamental importance of religious tolerance, assuring the mob that the United States does not share the outrageous views of the filmmakers; that the United States upholds free speech, but condemns hate speech. In short, they were using diplomacy to defuse the situation. Romney would do well to look that one up – and to learn from their example, instead of ridiculing them to win cheap political points.

DI·PLO·MA·CY  [dih-ploh-muh-see] noun

1.  The conduct by government officials of negotiations and other relations between nations.

2.  The art or science of conducting such negotiations.

3.  Skill in managing negotiations, handling people, etc., so that there is little or no ill will; tact.


Post-Convention Euphoria

September 7, 2012

Now THAT was a speech. I guess we got spoiled in 2008, when Obama trotted out a new, moving speech for every primary win… but I’d forgotten what this felt like – to truly believe that the man running for President really understood my values, my concerns, my hopes for the best in this nation. But now that he’s the POTUS, it seems all I’ve heard about is the Republican ticket. Attacks on women’s reproductive rights, vitriol over gays in the military, the promise to end Obamacare, the pledge to enshrine intolerance in our Constitution. And lies upon lies upon lies. Lies about Medicare, lies about taxes, lies about the President’s record, and lies about their own records. I don’t know what it’s like, experiencing a national election from a blue state, but here in Tennessee it gets scary. Sometimes it seems that no one in public life is willing to stand up with the President and embrace what he’s done, to be openly liberal and proud of it. To represent what Howard Dean once called “The Democratic wing of the Democratic party.”

Word cloud of Obama’s speech to the DNC (click to enlarge)

I was reminded of the euphoria I felt when Obama was elected. Not just the joy that came from having worked so hard for this result; I felt, for a moment, as if people like me were in the majority, for the first time in my adult life. People who wanted opportunities for advancement to be open to all in the United States, people who believe that the government can make a positive difference in people’s lives. People who believed that no one should be without a safe home or adequate food and medical care – that our society should provide a floor through which we let no one fall, and a ladder to help them achieve more. People who believe that we are all created equal and all deserve dignity and respect in our society, regardless of race or disability or sexual orientation or financial portfolio… This speech brought that back to me. Others set the tone so beautifully – Clinton debunked the Republican lies, Biden reminded us just how good Obama is at the hardest job in the nation – but Barack Obama did what he does best. Put our hopes into words, our faith in our country into sharp focus. Highlighted our potential for greatness, brought out the best in our nation. I’ve been struggling to articulate what is so obviously wrong with the GOP platform this year – it lacks empathy, it lacks inclusion… but there was something more I couldn’t name. And Obama named it. CITIZENSHIP. The idea that we have responsibilities, as well as rights, and that through our government, we work together for the good of our community.

[W]e also believe in something called citizenship, a word at the very heart of our founding, at the very essence of our democracy; the idea that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another, and to future generations.

We believe that when a CEO pays his autoworkers enough to buy the cars that they build, the whole company does better. We believe that when a family can no longer be tricked into signing a mortgage they can’t afford, that family is protected, but so is the value of other people’s homes, and so is the entire economy. We believe the little girl who’s offered an escape from poverty by a great teacher or a grant for college could become the next Steve Jobs, or the scientist who cures cancer, or the President of the United States, and it’s in our power to give her that chance….

Because — because in America, we understand that this democracy is ours.

We, the People, recognize that we have responsibilities as well as rights; that our destinies are bound together; that a freedom which asks only what’s in it for me, a freedom without a commitment to others, a freedom without love or charity or duty or patriotism, is unworthy of our founding ideals, and those who died in their defense.

As citizens, we understand that America is not about what can be done for us. It’s about what can be done by us, together, through the hard and frustrating but necessary work of self-government. That’s what we believe.

(full transcript at The Washington Post)

That’s what being a Democrat is all about. And we should never be ashamed of it. We ask for common sacrifice for the common good. We don’t hate business, or stifle success – we breed success by fostering dignity and opportunity. I feel at home again, back in the Democratic wing of the Democratic party. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.


It’s my birthday! Let’s talk about abortion!

March 16, 2012

With birthdays come reflection, looking back and looking ahead. I have been blessed in many ways, but perhaps in none so much as this: the only time I’ve been pregnant, I wanted to be pregnant. I was emotionally and financially secure enough to welcome a child. As for my personal “beliefs” on abortion, I am what I call a pro-life pro-choicer. Personally, I find abortion horrific, and don’t think I could ever make that choice. But I also know that I have absolutely no right (or desire) to substitute my judgment for another woman’s – and that the State is even less qualified to do so.

As I said, I have been blessed never to face that choice. I know several women who’ve had abortions – who had been raped, who were very young, or who were simply not in any position to provide for a child. I also know women who made the other difficult choice – to have a child while still in their teens, or to give birth to child knowing that it had a genetic disorder which meant it would only live for a few days after birth. In every single case, the woman wrestled with her options, and what her choice would mean for herself, her partner, her family. None of them made their choices blithely.

In the current round of state-sponsored misogyny, several states have adopted or are considering “compulsory ultrasounds” for women seeking abortion. I am not going to address the obviously grotesque suggestion that women in their first trimester be forced to undergo “transvaginal” ultrasounds – Rachel Maddow and Garry Trudeau have said all that need be said on the subject – but I want to take a moment to question the basic premise of any ultrasound requirement. The politicians who advocate for it always defend ultrasounds as necessary for “informed consent,” as if a woman seeking an abortion just is too feeble-minded to understand her choice; as if doctors who provide abortions don’t have other means of ensuring that their clients understand the procedure fully without the State writing the script for them. Every woman I know who has grappled with this choice – whether she was a teenager or in her forties – understood intimately exactly what was involved in her specific case, in a way a room full of male legislators never can.

In reality, the Republicans see ultrasounds as a way of rubbing a woman’s face in her difficult decision, as if she were being a bad dog. Why not just require women seeking abortions to initial every page of an Anne Geddes’ calendar? Just as ineffective, almost as humiliating, and far, far cheaper!


Rush Beyond the Pale

March 7, 2012

For some reason that defies logic, the Republican party has decided attacking women’s rights is the way to go in this election year. This leaves me in the uncomfortable predicament of having so very many things to say that my words trip over one another and tangle into knots, and then none of them make it to page or the screen. I’ve finally decided to try to tackle this hydra of misogyny one hateful head at a time, though it’s all the same monster. Republicans aren’t conservative anymore, they’re regressive. They want to roll back social change to 1950s, only without that pesky labor movement making sure the middle class could afford to live the American Dream….

Where to start? Obviously, with the loudest and most obnoxious misogynist (this week), Rush Limbaugh.

Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown law student who’s also president of Law Students for Reproductive Justice, testified before Congress about the impact of her Catholic university’s decision not to include birth control in insurance coverage for students. If you haven’t read her testimony, you might be surprised by it. She talked about the cost of prescription birth control, and about the dire consequences faced by women who need the pill for other medical reasons. She noted that Georgetown students themselves pay for this insurance, and overwhelmingly support a plan that would cover birth control. She pointed out that women’s health clinics cannot meet the demand, and that the same members of Congress who oppose requiring insurers to pay for birth control also oppose funding for clinics that might provide the services at an affordable cost. She never talked about her own sex life, and did not mention whether she herself used birth control, because this was not the issue. The issue is that women, and families, are being asked to shoulder a cost that the insurance they pay for should be covering.

Enter Rush Limbaugh, doing what Rush Limbaugh always does – slandering people who disagree with him, name calling, belittling, and jeering. Ms. Fluke, he informed us, wants us to pay for her to have sex. This makes her a slut, and a prostitute. He continually joked, over days of air time, that Ms. Fluke is “having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception” (as if the pill doesn’t cost exactly the same amount for a faithful wife who has passionless sex .75 times a month as it does for the Whore of Babylon). Lines down the block, Rush said, “sex-addict” numbers of partners, “having sex nearly three times a day for three years straight.” Ever the class act, he even asked, “Who bought your condoms in the sixth grade?”

I’m not an expert on feminist theory, but this pretty much a textbook example of “slut-shaming.” Never mind that Rush has no information at all about Ms. Fluke’s sex life; she is a confident woman who wants autonomy over her choices. She has the audacity to speak publicly about women’s reproductive health. Burn the witch! Rush attacked her – because attacking is what an “entertainer” like Rush always does – with the slur as old as time. Scarlet woman! Wanton whore! SLUT….

But this time it didn’t work. At least, not as it usually does. Rush’s advertisers are fleeing him. The backlash is swift, and organized. Maybe we as a society are finally past that. Maybe the sane majority is disgusted by the spectacle. Maybe Rush actually finally found the limits of our tolerance, and careened over them. My fondest hope is that the right is seriously overplaying its hand. The Republican party had big wins in 2010, due in large part to the Tea Party’s ability to rouse the rabble. This is their base now, and they keep leaning ever further right to appease it, seeming to forget that 2008 had lessons, too. Whether the right believes it or not, this country doesn’t want to be stuck in the 1950s. Racists can’t seem to understand that white Americans voted for Barack Obama, but we did. Homophobes cannot wrap their brain around the idea that straight people can support gay marriage, but most of us do. Misogynistic asshats like Rush Limbaugh can’t grasp that most Americans, even most men, don’t think it’s acceptable to try to discredit, demean, and slander a woman for standing up for reproductive rights. Maybe, just maybe, we aren’t that country anymore. Maybe we don’t want to be. Maybe we want to be – maybe we ARE – something better.

I hope.