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When Evil Men Plot

I am sitting at my computer a little numb. I’m looking at the people on the internet equivocating about violence and pining for the day when America used to be a Nation unambiguously against Nazis. I know that these people have been there the whole time. I know that my white skin and sheltered life have protected me from seeing the reality of their naked hatred but I miss the days when they used to be afraid, when they used to hide and pretend not to be associated with these vile ideals. I hate that my country has sunk this low. I cannot comprehend how any person defends the terrorism that occurred or tries to sidestep reflections on what has lead us here by attempting to lay the blame somewhere else.

Can we no longer, without reservation, condemn terrorism? Is that where we are? Is it worth some political points to you to now defend the KKK? Do you actually see them as your allies? Why then you do attempt to deflect the blame? Put it where it lies, at the feet of a truly evil philosophy?  Torch wielding men chanting hate again Jews, Muslims, and non-white people, are not patriots, they are traitors.

To the people who say that this was a false flag, seek help. If it makes you feel better to believe that this act of terrorism was not committed by a white nationalist you should seriously reevaluate why. You are saying that these poor white nationalist were framed.

To the people who say that BLM is just as bad, remove the plank from your own eye first, then we’ll talk. Let me just say that I personally believe that BLM is a peaceful movement addressing legitimate problems in our society. I can hold this belief because I am confident that all acts of violence performed in the name of BLM are separate from the ideals and the purpose of that movement. I can separate these things because I can say without reservation that I support the underlying message of Black Live Matter.  I don’t believe that the marchers in Charlottesville have any legitimacy in they’re claims of oppression. I do not believe that the underlying message of their rally was anything other than blind hatred and bigotry. If you honestly believe what happened in Dallas is in any way pertinent to this discussion consider very carefully what that equivalency means, you are arguing that the underlying message of this march has been perverted and was not perverted to begin with. Once again, any deflection in the discussion of Charlottesville towards the faults of your perceived political enemies is an implicit declaration that these marchers are your allies. Deflection is a defense of their actions.

Lastly, to the people who claim that this violence is acceptable because the removal of the Gen. Lee statue is somehow worse than murder. Let me say this, NO! No action against an inanimate object is ever, EVER, a justification for violence. The loss of any human life has no justification. It is always a vile and unforgivable thing. We should remember our history. We should remember that the Confederacy was a rebellion against this nation you claim to love. You do not get both. You do not get to both praise America and praise the people who violently sought to destroy her. Enough of this nonsense! In 1776, after the passage of the Declaration of Independence, one of the first acts of the revolutionaries was to pull down the statue of King George III in New York City. We do not mourn the fact that our past as a British Colony is forgotten. We do not demand that there be monuments erected to honor Gen. William Howe. I say this as an ancestor of Confederate soldiers, stop it! If you do not recognize that remembering the past and lionizing enemies of this country are separate things then I question your loyalty. Why is it so important to keep that anger alive? Why do you keep waving the flag of traitors?

My point is that there are not many sides to this issue. There are two sides. Those who seek to protect what this country stands for and those who seek to destroy it. White Nationalism has no place in this nation of immigrants. Praise for Hitler has no place in a country whose finest moment was defeating that evil. This is not up for discussion or debate. Consider very carefully what makes you resist unequivocally denouncing not just the actions of the terrorist in Charlottesville but the entirety of the rally. This is not a partisan issue. I know that the events in Charlottesville in no way represent the beliefs of the mainstream Republican party, but you are failing to cut that evil out while you look for ways to change the subject. Please, we need to be united on this.

And to my progressive brothers and sisters, don’t use this as political fodder. The failings of our president and the fault of his divisive rhetoric is not an opportunity for us to score points against the right wing. We should stand together in unity with any human being, Republican or Democrat, who is willing to say without reservation that violence and hate are not tolerated in this country. This act of terrorism was against us all.

“When evil men plot, good men must plan. When evil men burn and bomb, good men must build and bind. When evil men shout ugly words of hatred, good men must commit themselves to the glories of love. Where evil men seek to perpetuate an unjust ‘status quo’, good men must seek to bring into being a real order of justice.”

-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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Shouting into the void…

Like the people who say that protests are a waste of time there are plenty of people who complain that there’s too much complaining about politics on the internet. “Can’t we go back to baby pictures and funny cats” they say, and then something about how pointless it all is to rant online. And I get it, facebook is exhausting these days and we’d be better off calling or representative when we really want a change but also

Closed mouths don’t get fed. 

It’s an expression I used to hate, like ‘if you’ve got time to lean you’ve got time to clean’ but my dislike of folksy aphorisms aside, it is seeming truer by the day. Congress recently backed down on a plan to sell off public lands because of the hashtag #keepitpublic. Like it or not, in a world where a twitter troll is president, what’s trending is our direct line to the halls of power. It’s how we show we care and that we’re paying attention.

I’m sorry that Facebook is no longer a place expressly for engagement pictures. Facebook has been, I think, misunderstood in the past. People treat it like a friend’s house, a semi-private gathering place to be polite and to talk about safe things. But if that were the case it’d be a pretty crowded party considering all the passing acquaintances and former work colleagues in attendance.

No, Facebook is a semi-public space and in all public spaces where we are afforded with the ability to share ideas and anxieties, we should do so. That’s good citizenship, not just because of the current administration but in all democracies at all time. Being vocal is a part of vigilance and being vigilant is how we guarantee it remains the people’s government.

So maybe you think we don’t need vigilance, and maybe you think that this is all liberal backlash and paranoia. Maybe you think that political opinions should be kept to yourself and that what’s currently happening in DC will work itself out. Three things:

Three things:

  1. DC should not work itself out. It should work to please us. Leaving DC to its own devices is to say that every four years you put in an appearance at being a Democracy then you bail to the backseat and let yourself be driven wherever DC wants you to go.
  2. Liberal backlash it may, this is as much a problem with the Democratic Party as it is with the Republicans. But this is not paranoia. This is not normal. It is not politics as usual to have a man who bragged about assault as Commander and Cheif. Nothing makes that okay, not ever.  Nothing is normal about the audacity with which White Supremacists are becoming more vocal and violent. Nothing is normal about the authoritarian turn this country has taken.
  3. Every time you keep silent you surrender a little bit more of your autonomy.  To use another stupid aphorism; A stitch in time saves nine. The time to react is not after we wait and see but while we still have a platform and a voice.

I believe in this country and I trust our government to remain true to its constitutional mission. Because I believe in this country I feel that it is my duty as a citizen to share my concerns in every public forum available so that we keep communication going, keep engagement thriving, and protect our fragile democracy by being the demos which powers it.

So, I know that you’re tired of my anger and I’m sorry that I don’t have a baby to share pictures of instead. But this is my baby, if you want to know what’s happening in my life this is it.

As long as I have a voice I’m going to use it.

If you want to talk about what comes next, I’m game. Let’s talk about getting the Herbal Tea Party started. Let’s talk about making sure this remains the home of the free by getting people into office that want to move us forward. Let’s talk! Comment on my angry posts tell me how your feeling.

But if how your feeling is that I should shut-up, sorry that’s not happening anytime soon.

He is my President, but I don’t have to like it

Number one rule; respect the office, not the man. I believe in our government. I trust our constitution and the checks and balances it ensures. I believe that we must, if we want to preserve our republic, honor the greatest achievement of that republic by continuing the tradition of a peaceful  transfer of power.

At the same time, it is not an over reaction to be terrified that the man might do the things he expressly said he was going to do. It is not melodramatic to be heartbroken that someone who brags about sexual assault, is lauded by the KKK, and advocates violence against his critics is the man I have to now have as president. A man I wouldn’t even want to be on the same bus with is my president. It is not an overreaction to mourn for this planet and the irreparable damage that will be done to the climate by the man who denies the consensus of science and the majority of world leaders. And it is not irrational to fear for the future as our president will surely, willfully, gleefully even, neglect to address the greatest human rights crisis of our generation and leave the victims of extremism to whatever perils on the baseless, heartless fear of their religion.

I think about all the people who visited Susan B. Anthony’s grave on Tuesday, ecstatically hopeful that by the day’s end a woman would finally break that last glass ceiling. It’s easy to feel defeated by this. This feels like a serious blow to progressivism. It is a serious blow, but we are down, not out.  Remember, Susan B. Anthony never voted. Think of all the civil rights defenders who died before they saw their dreams come to fruition. Think of those who were fighting in times when popular opinion was so much against them that they were lightning rods for constant unabashed hate and vitriol. And yet they kept on fighting. They were standing up when they were the minority, we are the majority, we are the popular vote. Maybe we have grown lazy, maybe 8 years of a progressive icon, a wise and honorable man at the head of our country has made us complacent in our causes. Maybe that’s why not enough of us got up and voted on Tuesday.

We need to tend our wounds and regroup, we need to assure each other that we are all still here and still believe. That is what I hope these demonstrations are about, expressing to ourselves as well as to the rest of the world that progressivism is still here in America because we need to feel that hope right now.  But I hope these demonstrations are not a futile exercise in wishing things were different, in wishing for our druthers, and begging for a do-over.  The election was not stolen from us, we lost. Now we have to find a way to recover, move forward, and keep fighting. We also have to find a way to heal.

The good that might come from this is the bursting of the progressive bubble, the one that protected us from recognizing that those in opposition to us are not the stupid or the evil. They are wrong, not evil. And we don’t persuade them from their wrongness by vilifying them. This nation is too polarized to continue to function. We have to rethink our rhetoric recalibrate our message and truely become the politics of understanding and acceptance that we have always pretended but rarely suceeded to be. The unexamined vilification of the opposition is what has taken us to this point. Let’s be active, let’s be motivated, but let’s also be civil. We can no longer play the game of emotional politics in this country, if we want to do good and do good together we have to start to reason with each other and make reason above all else the greatest political virtue.

We are now the opposition. We are probably experiencing some of the same emotions that were felt by others when Obama became president, those emotions which looked irrational to us then. We should recognize now that to wallow in them will do us very little good. The republican party has made hay off of the myth of its own oppression (despite controlling congress), the ‘war on Christianity’, the ‘loss of American values’. Don’t let progressive values become empty those buzzwords, continue to believe in them because they are right, not merely because they are opposite. Don’t let MSNBC become the new FOX as we all bemoan the strawmen who oppose us, we must continue to present reasonable arguments for the progressive cause.

There will be so much more to say about this is the next four years. And I’m sure I will often be angry and emotional and not follow my own advice. I know that I will not remain silent while the marginalized suffer I will use my privilege and whatever other powers I have to push for progressive aims. I don’t know what else to say, there still remains so much to be seen. Just keep believing, we’re stronger together.

Here are a few speeches from progressive champions who faced greater opposition than this, to encourage you throughout the coming weeks.

Harvey Milk

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 

Robert Kennedy

Hillary Rodham Clinton

Make the impossible possible.

Love,

Jo

What I Just Heard…

I listened to about 10 minutes of the presidential debate and it was intensely uncomfortable. But also incredibly disturbing to hear a candidate tell his opponent that if he becomes president he will make sure his opponent is put in jail. He will “instruct” his justice department to make sure she’s found guilty. This is after she was investigated and cleared. This is not only, not how our justice system works, but it’s not good practice in a democracy to start threatening the opposition. That’s how dictators work.

Fight No More Forever

Wednesday was the anniversary of the surrender of the Nez Perce at Bear Paw which brought an end to the Nez Perce War. I didn’t want to let the day pass too far by me without remembering what Chief Joseph said on that day 139 years ago;

“Tell General Howard I know his Heart. What He told me before I have in my heart. I am tired of fighting, Looking Glass is dead. too-Hul-hul-sote is dead. The old men are all dead. It is the young men who say yes or no. He who led on the young men is dead. It is cold and we have no blankets. The little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them have run away to the hills, and have no blankets, no food; no one knows where they are–perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my chiefs. I am tired; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever.

This speech is both haunting and incredibly beautiful, but I’ll try not to focus too hard on the beauty. Often in American culture, when we do acknowledge indigenous people, it is with a kind of orientalism. New agey myths surround the “wisdom” of the first Americans as if they only existed as shaman proffering a fun spirituality that we can pick-up in our twenties and decorate our facebooks with, then just as easily toss aside for the next culture we want to fetishize. In remembering Chief Joseph’s words, I want to remember that this was a human man who suffered great loss.

But I do think it’s important to remember these words because they, like all beautiful things, reach a place in ourselves that would otherwise be unreachable. They are a visceral reminder that this nation was built on a genocide. (And if you now want to stop reading this now because you don’t like that last statement you’re actually exactly who I want to talk to (hopefully not lecture, but talk to)). I don’t think we love our country any better by pretending history never happened. I don’t think blindness is good patriotism.

We pick and chose and borrow and steal from those parts of this nation’s history that are beautiful, affirming, and encourage us to think of ourselves as the hero of history. We get very, very angry at anyone pointing out that firebombs killed civilians in WWII, internment camps imprisoned law abiding US citizens and stole their property, slavery was an evil that made America rich (North and South), the wounds of Jim Crow have NOT healed. We get very, very, very angry when a man uses his very public stage to say that justice is not available to everyone in this country.

The outcry is “How dare you not love this country!” But if that’s how you love your country, I don’t think you and your country have a very healthy relationship. Total and unquestioning acceptance is not love. It is not loving to sit in silence while your loved one hurts herself. It is not patriotism to make standing for a song, repeating a pledge, and never ever criticizing, the hallmarks of good citizenry. Especially in a democracy where it is our duty to be vigilant protectors of this fragile experiment.

Love for America is not contingent on the belief that America is without sin. Rather, the ability for democracy to grow, and learn, and change, depends on people challenging the complacency of believing we’re perfect. That is what we should take pride in, protestors are patriots. I believe that we are strong enough to challenge ourselves and overcome, to acknowledge the sins of our past and from them learn to do better and be better. That is how I love my country. So from time to time, I remind myself of the worst parts of history so that I can find ways to make us better.