I cannot write about the election. This hurts. The anger, the grief, the fear all cycle in and around, swirling into each other.

I have privilege. I can pass for whatever the reactionaries want me to be: a late-middle aged white suburban stay at home mother and wife. My friends and part of my family are not so fortunate. I fear for them.

There are family members whom I am avoiding because I am pretty sure they voted for Trump. There is a coworker whom I refuse to discuss politics with because he told me he voted for Jill Stein.

I hate this. I hate feeling so… divided.

Posted in My life and times, Politics | Leave a comment

Vote.

I usually write this post on Election Day, but I will be busy. I go to work at 5:30 a.m. and leave, hopefully, at 8 p.m. It might work later — a lot of other people will do so, until the wee hours of the morning. Elections take a lot of person-power.

You hear that you should vote for veterans. Don’t get me wrong, I fully support our veterans. I think they need to be treated with respect and given what they need to be successful in the field and when they come home.

But veterans didn’t fight for our right to vote. They fought to keep our country safe, true, but a lot of other people been harassed, tortured, and even killed so that all the people of this great country — not just white men — could have a say in how we are governed.

So…tomorrow, when you cast your vote, you should honor…

Belva Lockwood and Victoria Woodhull.

Harry Burn and his mother.

Alice Paul and the women of the Occaquan workhouse.

Fanny Lou Hamer, and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.

Medgar Evers.

James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner.

Every woman (and man) who marched for “Votes for Women!”

Every man and woman who risked life and livelihood in the dangerous communities of the Deep South fighting against poll taxes and literacy tests, and registering their friends and neighbors.

Every man and woman who works to bring democracy to all of us.

And, finally….

Every legislator who supported the Fifteenth, Nineteenth, and Twenty-Sixth Amendments to the Constitution.

Honor all of them, or none. Your choice. But whatever you do…

Vote.

x

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An Open Letter to The Republican Nominee.

Standard disclaimer: See sidebar. These are my views alone, not those of my employer, for whom I am in no way authorized to speak. I do not identify them, but I know what the Internet can do.

Dear Mr. Trump:

You insult me, sir.

You insult me so deeply that if this were the eighteenth century I would demand satisfaction, at dawn, in the location of your choosing (I hear Weehawken is nice), with pistols. Consider this your slap across the cheek.

I am an election worker. We are legion: a hundred thousand unsung defenders of democracy. We work long hours across the country to make sure that the wheels of the peaceful exchange of governmental power turn in a proper manner. When you state that the election is “rigged,” you insult the honor of each and every one of us. You accuse us not merely of dereliction of duty, but of being criminals.

You act as though elections just happen, as though a giant red, white, and blue unicorn scarfed down an American flag and a pocket Constitution and pooped out ballot boxes and voting booths. And that the “liberal media” is force-feeding it “I’m With Her” buttons.

It doesn’t work that way. Campaigns and candidates don’t run elections; state and county officials and their staffs do. And those staffs take their work very seriously.

There are the people who spend hours upon hours testing election machines to make sure that the machines record votes properly. There are the men and women who work for days upon days processing voter registration forms, or who staff the phones to politely and warmly answer questions that the occasionally quite irate voters ask. There are the guys who show up early to set up the voting machines during the early voting period.

And then we have absentee ballots. There are the guys who make the run to the post office so we don’t have to wait until the USPS delivers the ballots to start working with them. In my neck of the woods, the ballots all have a strip that is supposed to stay in place until the ballot is returned. Those strips have to be removed by hand: a laborious, tedious and grimy undertaking. There are millions of ballots mailed across the state.  There are those who risk their hearing running the machines that process the ballots, and those who risk their eyesight staring at screens verifying signatures.

There are people who extract the ballots from their envelopes, making sure that they do not see the name of the voter on the outside of the envelope as they do so. The ballots are then passed along to still more people for counting, people who haven’t the faintest clue in the world who the voter is. Everything is designed to protect the confidentiality of the ballot.

There are people who man the warehouse, who see that all the materials needed show up at the polls. And there are all the volunteer poll workers; and too, the people who coordinate those volunteers. Those who stay very late on election night to make sure everything comes in properly and that all the voting materials are all accounted for.

There are the men and women who spend many, many hours verifying provisional ballots. Contrary to the myth put about by some disappointed voters in the primaries, provisional ballots are not thrown away. They are investigated and counted.

That scenario you keep bringing up about people voting ten times? It can’t happen. After the first time, your imaginary election criminal would have to cast a provisional ballot, and their deception would be discovered. Those extra ballots would be invalidated. Not thrown out; nothing is thrown out. Accountability is our watchword.

An election is a massive undertaking. These and so many other tasks of all levels of complexity go on behind the scenes, and all most people know is that they walk in to the polls, go into a voting booth and come out five minutes later having cast a ballot. There is even someone who is in charge of ordering the “I Voted!” stickers.

The office where I work is a microcosm of America: we are all races, all faiths, a wide range of ages, every sexual orientation and gender identity. We have political beliefs of all stripes, none of which effect the diligence with which we perform our duties. We are what America could be if the country just got its act together. We deserve  your respect.

Instead of honoring the work we do, though, you spit on it. You are not the first: I had more than one testy interaction on Facebook with Bernie Sanders supporters after the primary. But they were ignorant, in most cases; whereas if you do not know the way that elections actually work, you have people to tell you.

And so, consider this your challenge. Name your place. Or you could simply stop proclaiming the election is rigged, and apologize to us.

Your choice.

Posted in Politics, Work! | Tagged , | 1 Comment

I could vote for Trump.

Today, when all hell has broken loose for the Republican Party, a lot of my friends on social media are asking why so many conservatives have announced that they are appalled by everything The Donald says and does but are still going to vote for him. I understand their confusion. On the other hand, I understand the Trump supporters (at least among the intelligent conservatives) and why they might vote the way they do.

I understand them because, if Donald Trump  were a Democrat, I’d vote for him too.

I know most of us like to think that we Democrats would not produce such a horrific candidate. We’re too intelligent. We’re too enlightened. And while it is true that we are not going to support a xenophobic, racist, overtly misogynistic con man, we could well support a con man of another stripe. The Donald took over the Republican Party; he could have, by shifting his positions (positions which seem to have been never firmly fixed until recently), taken over the Democratic Party by energizing disaffected youth and others who feel shut out by the political system. Bernie Sanders did just that, albeit far more benignly. If it’s useful to remember that Trump only became a Republican a few years ago, it’s also useful to remember that Sanders became a Democrat only last year. (The threat of a demagogue hijacking our party is the best reason I can think of for closed primaries.)

Although I naively used to think that progressives were immune to openly nasty misogyny, the past year has shown me how wrong I was. The Bernie Bros spewed misogynist invective almost as nasty as anything the Republicans threw out. There were also plenty of tin-foil conspiracy theories floating around: namely that the fix was in, and that The Powers That Be in the party had decided in advance that Hillary would be the nominee. (How that was supposed to happen when the party did not control the election process is beyond me, and probably beyond any of them. The difference is that I care about actual truth, not the bizarro imaginings percolating in my divorced from reality brain.) (And no, I am not by any stretch of the imagination implying that ALL Sanders’ supporters were like that. A lot of calm, rational people were Bernie fans; then again, on the other side, there are some calm, rational Trump supporters, too.)

But as I said, if by some awful set of circumstances a Trumpian demagogue ended up the Democratic nominee, I would support him (or her).

I wouldn’t be voting for them, of course; I would be voting for whomever they placed in that empty Supreme Court Seat. I would be voting for whomever they nominate to fill the other couple of Supreme Court seats most likely to come open in the next four years. I would be voting for the ninety-eight judges (thirty-nine if you assume all pending nominations would finally be approved)  they would place up and down the line in the federal judiciary.

I would be voting for whomever they named Secretary of State, and Treasury, and Attorney General. I would be hoping (perhaps unwisely) that someone like Trump isn’t really interested in running the country, just enjoying the trappings of the role, and that they would surround themselves with people who actually know what they are doing.

More importantly, I would be voting to prevent the other candidate’s nominees from taking office. Because while whomever my guy in that situation would nominate is a crapshoot, whomever the other side would nominate isn’t. As a progressive, would you really want a rabidly anti-choice, pro big-business éminence grise determining  the shape of the courts for generations? Not to mention the other dangers (another war in the Middle East anyone?) that might befall the country during those four years.

What about the Interior? Would you want a Secretary willing to sell off Bureau of Land Management lands to ranchers out West, for far less than they’re worth? Would you want an EPA headed by an Administrator looking to relax standards on drinking water? Would you like an Antitrust Division in Justice that would look the other way when already huge companies merge to become behemoths? Or a Civil Rights Division completely gutted? You might shrug off a USDA that let food inspection lapse completely on the grounds that market incentives would be enough to force meat producers to police themselves — that is, until you ended up in the  hospital in serious condition from an e. coli infection.

All of this underscores what Presidential elections are really about: shaping the government. And why it is so important that all of us vote.

That same scenario (albeit from the opposite angle) holds true for the other side. So yes,  I understand why some of Trump’s supporters stand by him. I even have a little bit of sympathy for them.

Not a lot, though.

 

Posted in Politics, SCOTUS | Tagged | 1 Comment

My soundtrack.

I can’t write about politics today. I know for whom I am going to vote, and many, many others are writing far better than I could about the dangers of electing a narcissistic, xenophobic, ignorant bully to the most powerful position in the world.

I can’t write about Black Lives Matter. It’s not my story to tell; it is my role to listen, and support people and communities of color, and grieve those killed senselessly by law enforcement.

I can’t even write about the weather today: every day hotter than normal makes me think of climate change and what is going to happen if Donald Trump gets elected. I will probably not live to see the worst effects of global warming, but my children and grandchildren will, and I worry about them.

So, instead, I am writing about something slight and unimportant — the music that shapes and defines who I am. My process for selecting songs was more or less random: I went through my iTunes library and went “Oh, yes, that one, definitely.” I managed to whittle the list down to sixteen, and that was tricky, believe me. So here goes:

“Travelin’ Thru,” Dolly Parton
“My Church,” Maren Morris
“Brain Damage/Eclipse,” Pink Floyd
“Kyrie,” Mister Mr.
“Corner of the Sky,” from Pippin
“Life Support,” from Rent
“Man of La Mancha,” from Man of La Mancha
“Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes,” Jimmy Buffet (also, “Boat Drinks.”)
“I Am What I Am,” from La Cage Aux Folles
“I Miss the Mountains,” from Next to Normal
“The Moon and St. Christopher,” Mary Chapin Carpenter.
“Hotel California,” The Eagles
“Light One Candle,” Peter, Paul, and Mary
“Let It Go,” pick an artist — my favorite version is by Pentatonix
“Brave,” Sara Bareilles
“Do It Anyway,” Ben Folds Five

The songs fall into several categories: life history (“Changes in Latitudes,” “The Moon and St. Christopher,” “Hotel California”), and difficulties I have had to overcome (“Brain Damage,” “I Miss the Mountains”).

The biggest category is aspirational: what I want (“My Church,” “Kyrie,” “Corner of the Sky”), who I want to be, (“Brave,” “Let It Go,” “I Am What I Am”),  and what matters to me (“Light One Candle”).

And then there is “Travelin’ Thru.” If I were to identify one anthem for both who I am and who I want to be, as well as what I value most, both in myself and in others, it would be this beautiful ode to acceptance both of yourself and other people.

Who I am:

God made me for a reason and nothing is in vain
Redemption comes in many shapes with many kinds of pain

Who I want to be:

Questions I have many, answers but a few
But we’re here to learn, the spirit burns, to know the greater truth
We’ve all been crucified and they nailed Jesus to the tree
And when I’m born again, you’re gonna see a change in me

And most importantly, what I want  for all of us:

Oh sometimes the road is rugged, and it’s hard to travel on
But holdin’ to each other, we don’t have to walk alone
When everything is broken, we can mend it if we try
We can make a world of difference, if we want to we can fly

When I make a playlist to get me through difficult times, I always add this song. When I look at the world, and I see darkness all around me, I listen to this song. I have been known to sit with this song in my car repeating over and over when life seems overwhelming.

“Travelin’ Thru” brings me hope that we can all get through it, whatever “it” is, if we just find each other and work together. I know that right now that seems impossible, but I have to hope we can  get through this.

My music gives me that hope.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Culture (popular and otherwise), Music | Leave a comment

Naivete.

In my friend Jane’s Facebook page a extremely conservative college classmate of hers stated, in regard to voter ID laws, “Why would someone refuse to show ID unless they were going to cheat?”

Why, indeed? Maybe because…

They are an elderly person in the South who was born at home, for whom birth records are scarce to non-existent.

They are an elderly woman who can get hold of her birth certificate, but can’t produce a marriage certificate to show her legal name change.

They are a person of any age whose records were destroyed by a fire or natural disaster.

They don’t have a driver’s license, and the only DMV where they can get their voter ID is forty miles away and only open one day a month.

Their state has 9,300 polling places but only seventy-one DMV offices.

They go to the state office and the government officials keep changing what documentation they want.

They are a college student, and their state university ID is not sufficient, but the paranoid survivalist in the next apartment with the four handguns and two long guns (one of which is an AR-15) can use a concealed carry permit as ID.

These requirements affect mainly the poor and the elderly, although not exclusively. (I was born in Louisiana, and am very careful to keep my passport current, because I am concerned about the state of fifty-year old records from Jefferson Parish post-Katrina.) Race is big factor: as Judge Diana Gribbon Motz observed, the requirements in the North Carolina voter ID bill were crafted with “almost surgical precision” to affect African-American voters. (Pro-tip for state legislators: if you request racially broken-down demographic data, and plan your voting restrictions accordingly, you cannot then claim the restrictions are not race-based and have intelligent people believe you.)

One only has to look at the other provisions of these laws to know that safeguarding the sanctity of elections is not their purpose. How does eliminating Saturday voting and reducing the time for early voting make the election process more secure from fraud? It doesn’t. What about eliminating out of precinct voting? Voters voting out of precinct have to cast provisional ballots, and if anything  provisionals are more closely scrutinized than regular ballots. These provisions hurt working people who can get off on a Saturday but can’t on election day, or who can vote near their workplace easier than they can by their home, or even just have moved and haven’t had an opportunity to update their registration. These laws don’t touch vote by mail, which is no more secure (and possibly  less so) than ballots cast at the polls. The difference is that vote by mail is used more by older voters and white voters – voters likely to vote Republican — than minority voters.

Furthermore, even if we were to take state legislatures at their word and assume that these laws are aimed at preventing identify fraud, they are baseless. There have been fewer than one hundred confirmed cases of voter impersonation in the past ten years during which billions of votes have been cast. Unless they want to argue that people have simply not been caught (in which case, how did THEY know about it?) such laws are a massive overreaction to a virtually non-existent problem.

To claim that the only reason people don’t show ID is that they are going to cheat is naive, at the very least. It demonstrates white privilege, and class privilege, and a lack of understanding that life is different for people not so fortunate. I wish that telling people like my friend’s friend about what others go through would help them acknowledge that the voter ID laws, whatever their intention (giving her and others the benefit of the doubt), serve to disenfranchise many thousands of voters while having no real impact on the security of the election, but I doubt that’s going to happen.

If only.

Posted in Politics, Social Issues | Tagged | Leave a comment

Jim Wright, one of my go-to bloggers for intelligent analysis, writes, with bitter sarcasm, that we “won” after 9/11.  But for people for whom sarcasm is not a native language…

We didn’t win. When the first soldiers were deployed to Iraq, a country which had nothing to do with 9/11, we lost. When the first suspected terrorist was sent to a CIA black site, we lost. When we brought our torture in-house at Abu Ghraib, we lost. When the first detainees walked through the gates of Gitmo– especially the first detainees that were caught up by a hysterical dragnet flung far and wide, catching terrorists and innocents who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time — we lost. When we bombed Iraq and Afghanistan and killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Afghani civilians, we lost. And when our drones missed their targets and killed civilians whose only crime was to want to celebrate a wedding, we lost.
 
When we first decided that principles such as the dignity of man and and the evil of torture were not fixed in stone but subject to whatever political exigencies swirled around our heads, we lost.
 
When we lost our soul as a country, we lost.
 
The terrorists, on the other hand, won.
They won big time.
Posted in Politics, Social Issues | Leave a comment