I now interrupt your regularly scheduled programming…

…Why, you ask? Because a certain story of American gusto has taken the nation by storm. And, well, I am not totally buying the narrative.

By now, we’ve all heard the heart warming story. 56-year-old James Robertson walks over 21 miles to work…5 days a week…for 10 years. Let me repeat that. Mr. Robertson has walked over 21 miles to work for 10 years. After his car gave out on him over a decade ago, this man did what he needed to do in order to remain gainfully employed. In the process, the job became his life.

 

The sheer time and effort of getting to work has ruled Robertson’s life for more than a decade, ever since his car broke down. He didn’t replace it because, he says, “I haven’t had a chance to save for it.” His job pays $10.55 an hour, well above Michigan’s minimum wage of $8.15 an hour but not enough for him to buy, maintain and insure a car in Detroit.

Is this job really worth it? I mean, walking that far every Monday through Friday! Why not just quit?

“I can’t imagine not working,” he says.

Okay, so this man is no taker. He exemplifies the idea that a man who won’t work won’t eat. Right?

Robertson’s 23-mile commute from home takes four hours.

He also seems to understand that anything worth having might be difficult to obtain and keep. The four-hour journey to keep a $10.55/hour job practically yells commitment. Right? And his employers speak very highly of him. His manager speaks of Mr. Robertson as a model employee.

“I set our attendance standard by this man,” says Todd Wilson, plant manager at Schain Mold & Engineering. “I say, if this man can get here, walking all those miles through snow and rain, well I’ll tell you, I have people in Pontiac 10 minutes away and they say they can’t get here — bull!”

I know what you’re thinking. What exactly is the issue? What can be said other than the fact that Mr. Robertson’s actions are the embodiment of what we think of as American Spirit? His story is remarkable. I find that there are, indeed, a few remarkable things about this story. (Spoiler Alert: American spirit doesn’t make my list.)

Topping the list, of course, is James Robertson. In my view, this is not a case of American can-do spirit. In fact, America plays little to no role here save setting and nationality. This a case of a remarkably determined man doing remarkable things in order to survive. The triumph or victory (if you call it that) belongs solely to the man himself. His grit, his determination, his perseverance, and his commitment make him a man to be respected and admired.

Secondly, I find it remarkable that so many Americans read his story, recognized his actions, and responded. According to  USA Today, over $230,000 has been raised on behalf of Mr. Robertson. That number is expected to rise.  I was pretty sure that there were still good people in the world, and the response reaffirmed that belief.

Finally, I find it remarkably disheartening that this story, while touching and inspiring, is not unique. My life has allowed me to experience many, many James Robertsons. I grew up in a community where this type of feel-good story was the norm. I have witnessed single mothers walk to work after death, divorce, or abandonment removed fathers from homes. I have witnessed married women walk similarly exhaustive treks in order to supplement the father’s income so that the family could make ends meet. I have witnessed fathers walking from home to Job 1, then Job 2, and sometimes Job 3 before walking home again.

Circumstances of birth, I suppose, make these people good Americans. In my eyes, they are simply good people. And therein lies my issue…this nation is full of good people doing remarkable things on a daily basis. Not in an effort to be labeled “good Americans”, but because they must be done. The stories of James Robertson and countless others make me wonder why Americans can’t see the economic failure embedded within the feel-good.

But… I return you to your regularly scheduled programming…

So, You’re Afraid of Tyranny?

As of November 2008, TYRANNY became America’s greatest fear.

Death panels, FEMA camps, chemtrails…TYRANNY(Yeah, I know, but some Americans truly fear this stuff.)

All manner of things like the Affordable Care Act, taxation, background checks, Mrs. Obama’s healthy eating initiative, and the fight for racial and gender equality have been labeled as tyrannical mandates sure to destroy America as we know it.  (Yeah, I know, but some Americans truly believe this stuff.)

But, let’s be honest, some Americans don’t know what tyranny means.  CAP LOCKED or not.

Merriam-Webster has defined the word thusly:

1 : oppressive power <every form of tyranny over the mind of man — Thomas Jefferson>; especially: oppressive power exerted by government <the tyranny of a police state>
2 a: a government in which absolute power is vested in a single ruler; especially: one characteristic of an ancient Greek city-state
   b: the office, authority, and administration of a tyrant
3 : a rigorous condition imposed by some outside agency or force <living under the tyranny of the clock — Dixon Wecter>
4 : an oppressive, harsh, or unjust act : a tyrannical act <workers who had suffered tyrannies>
Even though many patriots seem to be confused as to the word’s meaning, their fear of tyranny is not entirely without merit.  While they will argue that the stockpiling of (evermore dangerous and military-like) weapons is necessary to defend against tyrannical rule, they seem to be confused as to where it is coming from.
I know, I know, I know.  Obummer, Big Gubmint, the Framer’s, etc. Obama can do better, Congress is on what seems like another planet, Jefferson and company were fairly intelligent men.  But, look again at the definition above.
Oppressive, harsh, and unjust acts.  Oppressive power.  The tyranny of a police state.

(cough, cough)

The tyranny of a police state.

 
“If citizens cannot trust that laws will be enforced in an evenhanded and honest fashion, they cannot be said to live under the rule of law. Instead, they live under the rule of men corrupted by the law.” ― Dale Carpenter 
 
Whoa!  Before you scream at your screen… “All cops aren’t bad cops!  A cop’s job is dangerous!  They are just taking steps to ensure that they make it home alive.” …  I know this.  Most people know this.  This is not about making all cops look bad.  This is about making bad cops former bad cops.
 
No rational person believes that our nation’s police officers shouldn’t protect themselves.  But consider this.

“In 2013, 33 law enforcement officers were killed by gunfire. While it is a morbid statistic, it is the lowest number since 1887. Meanwhile, in 2012, police committed over 400 justifiable homicides for the first time in more than a decade. This trend would suggest that crime is increasing…but it isn’t. It only means that officers are more frequently resorting to violence.”

 

We also know that investigating suspicious activity is a part of the job description.  But seriously? Cruel and unusual.

““Nothing was found inside of Mr. Eckert,” the police report notes. So after he woke up, he was released — after 13 hours, two rectal exams, three enemas, two X-rays and a colonoscopy.”

Likewise, none of us want to live in crime-ridden neighborhoods.  But one in three Americans are in criminal databases.

“Researchers report that more than 40% of the male subjects have been arrested at least once by the age of 23. The rate was highest for blacks, at 49%, 44% for Hispanics and 38% for whites. Researchers found that nearly one in five women had been arrested at least once by the age of 23.  They further determined that 47% of those arrested weren’t convicted. In more than a quarter of cases, subjects weren’t even formally charged.”

 

Look.  America is a nation of laws. We trust our police departments with the task of keeping law and order.  Without them (both laws and officers), things would be a little chaotic.  I’m no more into anarchy than you are, but this is getting out of hand and lives are being lost and destroyed.

So, if you are honestly afraid of tyranny, ask yourself a few questions.  Why are our cops earning respect at the end of a gun barrel rather than with community involvement?  Why should our civil rights be suspended just because we are in the presence of a guy with a badge?  Why are our peacekeepers training with the military?  Why are they using military hardware?  Are we insurgents or are we citizens?  And, finally, what are we going to do about it?

Ignoring overzealous, ill-trained, or power-hungry officers does a disservice to We, the People.  It also does a disservice to the majority of good cops out there honestly trying to make our communities safer.
 
If you are honestly afraid of tyranny, this should concern you.  Not black you or white you.  Not liberal you or conservative you.  But American you.
 
Liberty and Justice for all, right?
 
Further Reading
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

We are here.

So Ferguson happened.

The pictures say a lot, don’t they? What they say depends on who’s doing the looking. To me, it says dangerous times are ahead.

If you recall, I wrote about this very thing many months ago. In that piece, the militarization of America’s police departments was discussed. If we are brutally honest with ourselves, we know that Ferguson has been a forward moving train..gathering steam..barrelling toward us at a speed sure to cause massive damage when it finally made impact. Armored vehicles and military grade weapons are not new. SWAT teams are not new. Abuse of authority is not new. So, I won’t go into all that again. This begs the question: Are we truly surprised? Or are we simply expert reactionary Facebook/Twitter/Instagram protesters?

If, indeed, you are truly surprised..or if you really don’t understand why minorities, all across the nation, are angry..or if you find it impossible to fathom the type of desperation, frustration, and hopelessness that causes you to destroy your own communities…

“Hence I have no mercy or compassion in me for a society that will crush people, and then penalize them for not being able to stand up under the weight.”

“I was going through the hardest thing, also the greatest thing, for any human being to do; to accept that which is already within you, and around you.” –Malcolm X

We are here.

Remember when I said it depended on who was doing the looking? Yeah, well, African-Americans have always been here. This type of drama plays out on the stages of our communities Every. Single. Day.

America has done this. America – with her high handedness, her conceit, her total lack of will to right her wrongs – has done this. America is masterful at “breaking” a subset of people, at burdening them until they collapse to their knees, then punishing them for not standing up straight. (Bootstraps, anyone?) Systemic racism is like kudzu in the foundation of this nation. It has sprung up around -and intertwined itself with- every aspect of life. So much so, that far too many can’t recognize what a privilege it is to not be black in America. America wants to keep us in check with The Dream. (That they began waking us up from before we got too deeply involved in it.)

Americans have allowed it. (And by Americans, I mean ALL of us. Hang on, black folk, I’ll get to you in a minute.) There has been silence where there should have been shouting. Heads have been turned when we should have faced issues head on. Apathy has replaced action. The face we show to the world has got to be flawless, but our inner workings are as ugly as homemade sin. That ugliness fuels riots and rebellion. Unfortunately, when a people is left without power, they react in ways those without such experiences can not possibly relate to.

But, here is the thing…you don’t need to relate. You need to acknowledge. So, you’ve heard of Michael Brown. And Trayvon Martin. You posted about how sad it was for their families. You posted about the senseless waste of life. You may have even found a local march in an attempt to show your support. And then, you moved on with your life. Life does go on, right?

Not for Ousmane Zongo, Timothy Russell, Aaron Campbell, Victor Steen, Alonzo Ashley, Wendell Allen, Oscar Grant, Ramarley Graham, Manuel Loggins, Ezell Ford, Kimani Gray, Amadou Diallo, Timothy Stansbury, Jr., Sean Bell, Orlando Barlow, Steven Washington, Ronald Madison, James Brissette, Travares McGill, John Crawford III, or Eric Garner. To name a few.

The constitution was meaningless for these young men and thousands of others like them. But, guess what? That means that the constitution is meaningless for you, too. Today, your kids are pretty safe from lying in a pool of their own blood for hours in the middle of the street. What of tomorrow? Don’t think for a moment it can’t happen. It has already happened. For years, disgruntled blacks complaining of police brutality, harassment, and use of excessive force were ignored. Remember? We had it coming. We deserved it. We were whiners. While you were giving the “birds and bees” talk to your kids, we were giving the “statistics show that you will probably have an encounter with police, so this is how to avoid being shot” speech. Then one day, a funny thing happened. Your neighborhood cops became overzealous. They demanded respect without being bothered to return it. They began bursting into your homes, with or without warrants. Just like that, our problem became your problem. Welcome. You are here. What are you going to do about it? Point guns at officers of the law? You just might get away with it, but black people….

“America’s greatest crime against the black man was not slavery or lynching, but that he was taught to wear a mask of self-hate and self-doubt.”
“So early in my life, I had learned that if you want something, you had better make some noise.”
― Malcolm X

….know they would be shot down. Immediately. So what do we do? March and sing? Riot and loot?

No.  Plan our lives!  We must give up on the notion that America cares. Still waiting for forty acres and a mule? Ha! Hell, we can’t even eat skittles or jaywalk! The first step is to know your worth. Self hatred, doubt, and lack of pride are the greatest enemies we face. Stop allowing this country to dictate your value. We must be present. Present in our homes and in the lives of our children. Present in our communities and programs that lift one another up. Present in our classrooms where we learn how to play the game.  Present in our children’s classrooms to ensure they are well prepared to face the world. And, like my Grandma always said, “America ain’t giving away nothing. Money talks, bullshit walks.”  Therefore, we must purchase our equality with the only currency power accepts – ballots and dollar bills. These are our weapons; we must wield them well. The logo on your foot, the name on your rear, nor the initials on your purse are more important than the number on your bank balance. Finally, speaking of walking, high step it to the voting booth. You can’t expect to be heard when you don’t speak!

“We cannot think of being acceptable to others until we have first proven acceptable to ourselves.” —
Malcolm X

So, yes, we are here. But we don’t have to remain here. Stand for something.

 

Further Reading

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/08/police-shootings-michael-brown-ferguson-black-men

http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2011/07/26/wealth-gaps-rise-to-record-highs-between-whites-blacks-hispanics/

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/08/14/police-killings-data/14060357/

http://www.csmonitor.com/The-Culture/Family/Modern-Parenthood/2014/0815/If-They-Gunned-Me-Down-on-Tumblr-Pressing-parents-to-take-a-second-look

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/michael-brown-shooting-us-cannot-lecture-others-on-human-rights-amnesty-says-9677800.html

 

911: What’s your emergency?

This is 911.  What’s your emergency?

I need help.  My community, my state, my nation is being overrun.

Overrun?  By whom, Ma’am?

Men and women carrying BIG guns like soldiers.  They’re driving armored cars and sometimes tanks.  Yes, I said tanks.  And they are wearing all black riot gear and..and….badges.

copld

If I say “police”, what is the first thing that comes to mind?  (Cue Jeopardy music)

Once upon a time, I would have thought of public service.  Of bravery.  Of courage.   As a child (and, no, how long ago that was does not matter), I remember having fun interactions with police officers.  They were the “good guys” who passed out lollipops when they saw you at the playground.  They visited our schools with plastic badges and mini flashlights.  They encouraged us to “be good and stay out of trouble” with smiles on their faces.  We were allowed to sit in the police car, lights flashing and sirens blasting.  They made me feel …safe.

Here we are a few years later (yes, a few years) and that feeling of safety is nearly non-existent.  Don’t get me wrong, I am perfectly aware of the fact that the world had changed in the few years it took me to grow up.  We’re not in Mayberry anymore, Andy.  The danger that they face is not imagined.  And, sure, I know that not all police officers are bad apples.

But, come on….

swat

Storm Troopers?  And tanks?  Really?

Beating and kicking a man after you’ve hit him with the stun gun?

Two officers stand over the motionless man and begin kicking him. A third officer drives up and attacks him.

That sounds more like brutality than bravery.

Excessive use of force in New Mexico..courage..or crisis?

Five officers gave chase, and when Lopez reached a fence and began to turn around, one of the officers fired three times, hitting Lopez once. The nonlethal shot put Lopez on his back, the report said, and the officer approached him and fired a fourth shot into his chest, killing him.

 I know it’s hot as Hades out there, but seriously?  Are they losing their minds??

All over the nation, our children are scarred for life.  Rendered sterile.  Because hoodies.

But don’t get too comfortable in your justifications.  Eight year old girls are deadly!

Our blackberry bushes and sunflowers must not be allowed to disturb the peace.

And whatever you do.. Don’t. Clinch. Your. Buttocks!

Is this what we are?  Who does this militarization help?

…a sheriff in Illinois was accused of lending the assault rifles, which he got through the 1033 program, to his friends.

…a firearms manager in North Carolina pled guilty to selling his on eBay.

…a county in Arizona acquired $7m worth of weapons and Humvees before giving them to unauthorized persons and attempting to sell them to boost their budget.

…in Mississippi, it took six years before federal authorities discovered that a state office, which was ineligible for the program, had received $8m worth of equipment, despite the fact that the Defense Department is supposed to review the program every two years.
 

As an American, I know we don’t want cops who resemble this…

funny cop

…but the statistics on police brutality and misconduct are appalling.  (Check out Radley Balko.)

Know your rights!  Also know that knowing your rights won’t always protect you.

So, yeah, dispatcher..that is my emergency.  That is everyone’s emergency.  Can you help us?

Or…Maybe Flava Flav had the right of it…911 is a joke in your town.  And mine.

Continue reading

What’s goin’ on?

Things we’ve been reading:

First, a friend of mine shared this.

I lightly broke it down (do read it) with this response:

1. Referring to yourself and/or group of friends as “bro” seriously might as well be a sign you’re a douchcanoe.
2. “Midnight or after, if you have been talking for awhile and they’ve had a couple drinks, ask if they want to dance. If you see an untalked to group or a solo girl, go up to her and ask if she wants anything to drink. If she says yes, get her a drink and then ask if she wants to dance. If she says no, ask her to dance. DANCING IS FUN!!!!! Always try to dance. If she does not want to dance and is with friends, say “aw thats no fun” (or something like that) and then ask one of her friends.”
I thought the stereotype was that guys don’t like to dance, which made the all caps insistence DANCING IS FUN massively humorous. But is DANCING FUN with creepy guys who call each other “bro?”
He really does need to learn about the body though. There’s a lot in between “just under the boob” and “fingering her.”  Just sayin’.
3. “If she starts putting her hair over her ear, THAT MEANS SHE WANTS A KISS.”
I had no idea this was part of the mating ritual of humans. I’m sure my husband is stewing “That feminist bitch I married never puts her hair over my ear, dammit.”
WTF is he talking about? Well, he sure is fond OF ALL CAPS.
4. ” 6. Ejaculate (should also be self explanatory) ”
No, I’m sorry, I don’t follow, care to explain? Preferably in ALL CAPS, AMIRITE BROS? How many women do you think this “bro” *shudder* has so cleverly used this MASSIVELY AWESOME ADVICE ON, [name of friend]? Success rates count.

Also, why are people so stupid to think emails won’t be leaked, etc? Geez.

In other news:

Crawling

Friends of the Everblog, I am certain we are all gearing up for the Labor Day Weekend, right?  If you are anything like me, the grilling, laughter, and (perhaps, more than one) beer are well and truly anticipated.  I’ll just use my soapbox to share with you a few pieces of what I think are good news events.  Nothing too heavy, I promise.

Keeping in mind what Labor Day is all about, I found this to be rather encouraging.

On Thursday, the protests involved workers at nearly 1,000 restaurants in more than 50 cities, organizers said, spreading to areas of the South and West including Atlanta, Los Angeles, Memphis, and Raleigh, N.C.

Workers have garnered the courage to strike.  Now the only question is will we – consumers – support them in spirit…  And in choices?

************

This past week, we also celebrated the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.  It was a wonderful opportunity for all to ponder and pontificate on exactly what his words meant to each of us.  And (our resident Pinhead)  Bill O’Reilly told us what he thought.  What is possibly good about this?  After having made such a ruckus about conservatives being excluded, he admitted he was “Wrong“.

Last night during my discussion with James Carville about the Martin Luther King commemoration I said there were no Republican speakers invited. Wrong. Was wrong. Some Republicans were asked to speak. They declined. And that was a mistake. They should have spoken.

************

Meanwhile, down in Florida…Republican, David Simmons (an author of the state’s Stand Your Ground law), would like to tweak the controversial legislation.  Especially where cases of Neighborhood Watch programs are involved.

…something that would affect the ability to go ahead and follow somebody else, for example, and confront them. That’s generally believed to be outside the parameters of anyone who’s participating in neighborhood watch and this is something that I think needs to be debated.

Would that this could have occurred sooner, but it is happening  now.  In all fairness, this is the second time Simmons has filed this particular bill.  He hopes it will actually receive a hearing this year.  And, what do you know?  I agree with a republican.

************

Even though I don’t “light up”, I think the Department of Justice was correct in its decision to not tell me I can’t.

The Justice Department said it would refocus marijuana enforcement nationwide by bringing criminal charges only in eight defined areas – such as distribution to minors – and giving breathing room to users, growers and related businesses that have feared prosecution.

This balanced approach to handling marijuana usage just may work.  States (Colorado and Washington) are given authority to handle the situation, with an assurance that the federal government will only step in if it is proven that they are not up to the task.  I know, I know..it’s the DoJ.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed anyway.

************

Allow me to leave you with this:

progress

The past fifteen years, we have been doing a hell of a lot of crawling.  But crawling is moving forward.

Support those union workers.

Accept (or gloat) when someone who is wrong…admits it.

Continue to speak out, loudly and proudly, against dangerous legislation.

Remember that there is a delicate balance between individualism and collectivism.

We won’t be crawling forever.   As long as we all have a dream…or two.

Be safe and enjoy!!

Not Far Enough

This past weekend, my family made our umpteenth trek through the nation’s capital.

dc2

We picked quite a day for it.  It was nearly 100 degrees.  And the humidity!  Let’s just say it was the type of heat that would make Satan knock on your door to ask for a glass of iced water!

Our plan was simple.  The children would see each and every thing they wanted to see.  If time allowed, I could do the same.  Which was a good thing, since the only thing I hadn’t seen a million times was the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial.

We spent many hours walking and talking.  We spoke of the American spirit and discussed inventions that changed the world.  We debated which famous American was best, in his/her respective field.  I had to referee the occasional brotherly skirmish.  In other words, it was your typical garden variety family day-trip.

It never dawned on me that I would learn anything .. from my children.

Let me remind you:  It. Was. Hot. My asthma was trying to take center stage.  I had four (somewhat spoiled and over-indulged) boys in tow.  By the time the kids were satisfied that they had seen all they wanted to see, I was exhausted.  And, sure, trying to ensure the satisfaction of four boys can make me a little cranky.  My overall mood was not great.

The more we walked, the less oxygen I seemed to take in.  I was stopping every ten feet to catch my breath.  I wanted to give up on the journey.  I was urged to give up and “just see it next time”.  But I have lived long enough to know that there may be no next time.  And to be perfectly honest, that stubborn Mommy part of me was determined that if I had been walking through an inferno for 7 hours, I would damn well see that exhibit.  Or pass out trying.

Not understanding, my oldest son remarked: “Mom, I know you want to see this thing, but it’s hot and you can’t breathe.  Maybe we should forget it.  Is it really worth all that?”

[Enter visions of cotton fields, torched houses, protests, jail cells]

To which, I responded: “That is why I must keep going.  Men and women, like King, got sick.  They kept going.  People told them it wasn’t worth it, but they kept going.  Heat wasn’t the only thing beating at them, but.. They. Kept. Going.”

So…we kept going.  I was dizzy, light-headed, and wheezing.  But I kept going.

dc3

Finally!!  We were there!  At that moment, my fatigue vanished.  My initial joy was not in seeing the monument.  It was in pride that I made it without collapsing.  It was all about me.

Once I realized that, I took a step back.  I removed myself from the equation.  I remembered how grateful I am for those –  like Dr. King –  who removed themselves from the equation, daily, so that we all might have a better quality of life.  I read his words on the Inscription Wall, and I felt humbled.  And small and petty.  My small accomplishment of “making it” paled in comparison to the type of endurance he needed.  Every day of his life.

After having splashed my face and arms with water from the waterfall, I turned to the faces of my children.  Observing me.. and my humility.

Initially, I was a little embarrassed.  They, then, did something I will never forget.  They, too, splashed their faces and arms.

At that moment, a lesson was driven home.  Children need to observe humility.  They need to see adults continually fighting for what is right, fighting for a more perfect union.

Sadly, it isn’t  hard for me to imagine Dr. King’s America.

An America of fear, prejudice, and hatred.  An America where equality is privilege.

True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.     MLK 1963

An America of poverty.  An America that excuses bad behavior and ignorance.  An America where workers are treated poorly.

I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits.     MLK 1964

An America at war.

It is not enough to say “We must not wage war.”  It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it.  We must concentrate not merely on the negative expulsion of war, but on the positive affirmation of peace.     MLK 1967

I can imagine it, because that is MY America, to a lesser degree.  We, as a society, have become complacent and selfish.  We rationalize this by saying we have come pretty far from King’s America.  Well, I say we haven’t come far enough.  I say there is always work to be done.

Wouldn’t you agree?

Related articles:

Shared Suffering

Anyone who took the time to read my last post, may be a little surprised at what I say next.

Beneath all of the sadness and hiding behind all of the outrage…was pride.  Yes, you heard me, Pride!

Why?  What on Earth was there to be proud of??

martin 1

US!!

Not just the above us, but…

martin 5

THIS US!!

The us that stood together –  shoulder to shoulder, our voices mingling – to protest our displeasure.  Displeasure with a culture that hasn’t yet gotten over its biases.  Displeasure at how cases, involving our children, are handled.  Displeasure at how our laws are written.  Displeasure at how our justice system works.

A large number of Americans – all across the nation – came together for a common cause.   No matter our respective “colors”.  How’s that for tasting the rainbow?  You’re proud, too, right?

(Feel the but coming?)

But with that being said, many of us know that we are not headed for the pot of gold.  We know that our (individual) voices are often marginalized, if not silenced.

And as much pride as I have in what we did above, I fear that we won’t use that momentum going forward. 

That is because each of us is guilty.  We are guilty of paying especially rapt attention to the hot-button issues that touch us on a personal level.  And..we are ALL guilty of not paying (as much) attention to the suffering of others.  Sure, we are quick to jump to the defense of someone who has been blatantly wronged and gets enough media coverage (which seems to be up to fate).  But, then what?  We have a tendency to return to our respective corner, lick our wounds, and rest up for the next assault against our rights.

I, as a non-wealthy, cisgendered, black woman, have my own problems.  (You do, too.  Am I right?)  Sometimes it is difficult to step out of my shoes and into someone else’s.  Further, it is extremely easy to focus on what matters to me, to the exclusion of all else. 

I was as guilty as anyone else.  I spoke out against an injustice, here or there.  I volunteered for a campaign or two.  And I was proud of it.  But, I have come to realize that is not enough.  Not by a country mile.

Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable…Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.  – MLK

We must combine our grievances to fight for the common good.  We can not afford to become so encapsulated in our little bubbles, that we forget about the gay couple who asks only the freedom to marry.  We can not focus all of our energy on the plight of the woman when our oceans are becoming more acidic by the day.  It would be a mistake to disregard the plight of the immigrant, in favor of the black struggle.

Let’s be perfectly honest.  Any politician who does not believe that a woman is a fully cognitive being, capable of making her own decisions..probably won’t believe that poor people are not making a concerted effort to remain in poverty.  If any politician is able to look in your face and deny climate change, that politician is equally likely to think ‘drill, baby, drill” has no impact on the environment and that “education mills” have got it all wrong.  Any politician that doesn’t recognize the ingrained cultural biases in society..probably won’t understand why “the gays” are making such a fuss.  A future leader who will snatch your right to vote..will snatch your right to marry.  If he or she wants to pay for prisons and not schools..chances are he or she will not be too worried about the uninsured.  If a politician can’t value the unions..how much does he value the worker?

Consider this…

Those who have no problem stepping all over our rights have a plan.  They have a view of the world that we do not share.  Say what you will about them, they are tenacious.  They are determined and they are fighting with all they have.  They are investing millions and millions of dollars into their efforts.  They are buying the kind of country they want.  And have absolutely no guilt over it.  In fact, when we are hesitant to get with their program, we are labeled as lazy.  Or takers.  Or, sometimes, traitors.

And what are we doing?  We’re waiting..

Well, we can not afford to rest up for the next assault on our rights any longer.  We simply can not.  When we fight for the rights of the poor, the worker, the children –  we are fighting for our rights.  When we battle for the rights of our fellow citizens, we win the battle for ourselves.

As long as justice and injustice exist, human beings must be willing to do battle for the one against the other.

 – John Stuart Mill

Southern Style: Tar Heel Turnaround

Friends, it has been a while since our last stop on the Southern Express.  And, honey-chile, this one will be a real treat.  One you surely don’t want to miss.  So, go on, grab your sweet tea, immerse yourself in insect repellant, and…

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North Carolina.  Majestic mountains.  Beautiful beaches.

One of the more progressive southern states prior to the..

Tar Heel Turnaround?

The North Carolina that we are seeing today is at odds with the trajectory the state has been on in recent years.  The southern states may seem as though they are vehemently opposed to ideals like change and progress.  In my view, North Carolina has always been different.

A little history….

Even during our nation’s ugliest time, the Civil War, this state was a bit progressive.  “The second to last (technically the last) state to secede from the Union” did so reluctantly in 1861, and wasn’t as sold on slavery as the rest of the south.  They – along with Virginia, Tennessee, and Arkansas – initially chose to remain with the Union, after Lincoln was elected.  Confederate forces in South Carolina (Boy-oh-boy, our stop there will be fun!) fired on the Union, forcing the hold-out states to fight for the federal government or their neighbors.

The above facts, in no way, justify the actions taken statewide during Reconstruction.  The state did, however, make great strides once it became clear that they couldn’t put skeletons back in the closet.

The eat-ins and sit-ins led to incremental integration.  Education became a priority, and was heavily invested in.  Tobacco was replaced with textiles, then technology.

There was…progress.

North Carolina attempted to rise above the title of “confederate sympathizer”.  Instead, it focused on its memories of the Wright brothers and Kitty Hawk.  Those majestic mountains and beautiful beaches were boons for tourism.  I, myself, thoroughly enjoy time spent at Atlantic Beach each year.

Many have grooved to Thelonious Monk, Pink Floyd, and Roberta Flack. We were touched that James Taylor had Carolina in his mind.  The Andy Griffith show was mandatory viewing in many households.  And everybody wished they could jump like Mike!

North Carolina gave us Duke University, a pioneer in the medical field.  It gave us Shaw University, the first HBC,  as well as Salem College, the first school for young women.  The state’s Research Triangle brought in major industries – such as IBM, GlaxoKlineSmith, and LabCorp – providing jobs and careers for residents.

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 What a difference a (voting) day makes!

This is not progressive.

North Carolina’s Republicans took simultaneous control of the legislature and governor’s mansion in January for the first time in more than a century. The current session has been marked by sweeping conservative measures in what has long been counted as among the South’s most progressive states.

Arrests?  Of nearly 675 people since these peaceful protests began?  Because they do not approve of your policies, and are exercising their right to protest, they are “morons” who deserve to be arrested?  To further marginalize them, they are called “outsiders”.  Never mind the fact that arrest records show that nearly all are from within the state and the fact that slashing unemployment benefits for over 100,000 residents and decreasing benefits for the rest might be seen as irresponsible.

We can’t call this progressive either.

As legislators enter the final phase of closed-door state budget negotiations, young children could wind up being the biggest losers.

Children with special needs will lose much-needed services, like speech and developmental therapy.  Ten thousand Pre-K slots will be lost over a two-year period.  Prenatal care will be unaffordable for many.  The Child Fatality Task Force will be eliminated, even though child death rate has dropped 46%.  Healthier, more well-adjusted children is a smart investment that residents support.

Need more?

Repealing the Racial Injustice Act?  Not progress.  Because racial discrimination has never been the best option for a state, or the nation.

Quietly imposing “the biggest overhaul of the state’s tax system in more than a decade.”  … not progressive.  Decisions that impact a state should be discussed, no, especially when you’re favoring one segment of the population at the expense of another.  FTA:  Supported by Gov. Pat McCrory, the bill adds a sales tax to numerous exempt services, such as car repairs and appliance installations, to pay for moderate cuts in personal and corporate income taxes. 

The necessity for stealth doesn’t usually indicate progress.  I know we women can be freedom riders, but seriously?  One of the most basic human rights is full and complete dominion over one’s body.  Why not just ban women and be done with it?

Does anyone, especially college students, find this progressive?  I think not.  Because didn’t we already determine this was not the way forward?

In retrospect, perhaps we ALL should have been worried when this hit the news.  Because Church of North Carolina meet the Constitution, already!

So, yeah, I would say the Tar Heels got turned around.  Wouldn’t you?

What to do..what to do..

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THIS!!!

Protest.  And protest some more.  Transform “Moral Mondays” into “We, the people Week”.. “Month of Marches”.. straight to the voting booth!

Because this is not about conservative and liberal.  It is about right and wrong.

Once you were a progressive state.  You can be again.

Battle for the Ballot

America has celebrated another birthday.  Americans, all over the country, hung up flags and fired up grills.  We drunk ice-cold beer, ate, and laughed with friends and family.  We enjoyed parades and fireworks.  Pride in our country was evident, and rightly so.  I hope the day was enjoyed by all.

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While Independence Day is over, the fight for those founding ideals rages on.  We are left to deal with this.  The Supreme Court of the United States, in a 5-4 decision, dismantled the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  This will now allow problem states, mostly southern, to alter voter laws without obtaining advanced federal approval.

The majority (Justices Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito) held that Section 4 is unconstitutional, as the formula used is out-dated.

Regardless of how one looks at that record, no one can fairly say that it shows anything approaching the “pervasive,” “flagrant,” “widespread,” and “rampant”discrimination that clearly distinguished the covered jurisdictions from the rest of the Nation in 1965.

The minority (Justices Ginsberg, Breyer, Sotomayer, and Kagan) held that while there has been improvement, the legislation is still necessary.

Early attempts to cope with this vile infection resembled battling the Hydra.  Whenever one form of voting discrimination was identified
and prohibited, others sprang up in its place.

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Technically, both the majority and dissenting opinions have some validity.  The majority is correct.  There is no longer blatant violence keeping minorities from the polls.  The intelligence tests and poll taxes are a thing of the past.  The dissenting opinion, which I strongly suggest reading, is also correct.  Atrocious methods of the past gave way to all-white primary attempts and racial gerrymandering.

Think Voter ID.  Since last year, 41 states have introduced some form of restrictive voting legislation, and of those 18 passed laws. Among the most popular are those that require voters to show a photo ID in order to vote, which proponents say helps to counter fraud — a phenomenon that almost never happens, analysts say.

Both opinions clearly state that it falls to Congress to legislate a formula that discourages this type of strategy.

Optimistic?  Anyone?

While it is up to Congress to  come up with a formula that takes into account the types of racial voter discrimination we face today, it is up to us how we react to the Court’s decision.  One thing we can do is to contact our representatives.  We can let them know that we expect them to get off their asses and do something.  We can send letters and emails.  We can pick up the telephone and voice our demands.

That being said, if you have been paying attention the past few years, you know that train will be slow to leave the station.  I am not convinced that Congress can decide what to have for lunch.  I don’t hold out much hope that they can come to an agreement here.  Do you?

The best way to combat what we know to be disenfranchisement attempts is to…

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Vote when you are inspired by a particular candidate.  Vote when you are not.  Vote when you have a much-needed day off from work.  Vote when it takes your entire lunch break.  Stand in line, proudly, when the sun is shining.  Stand, defiantly, when it is raining.  Exercise your right, whether it takes fifteen minutes or five hours.

No matter which hydra head comes at you,…Stand and be counted.

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I am committed because of scenes like the one above.  My ancestors, and their freedom-loving allies, fought, bled, and died so that I could vote.

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Water hoses didn’t work.  Biting dogs didn’t stop them.  Baton beatings didn’t deter them.  Jail cells could only hold them for so long.

Burning homes and lynchings…Did. Not. Stop. Them.

I am not about to let a little redistricting stop me.  Nor am I about to wait around for Congress to pull its head out of its ass.

Voting is my right, my duty, and my privilege.

I will go to the polls because our power is in the ballot.  But, I will also go for my fellow citizens.

My thoughts will be with my children, and all children, who we encourage to participate in our democracy.  My thoughts will be with the working poor, who risk their jobs to cast their ballots.  And, with those who wait hour after hour to have their say.  I will stand in solidarity with immigrants, who have also been subject to discrimination and intimidation.

Inequality for one is inequality for all.

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I will stand and be counted, or the sacrifices made on my behalf were in vain.

Will you?