The Country Takes a U-Turn

Four years ago, I remember the pits of despair at the election of Trump. Having friends who had worked on some of Trump’s projects, I knew what kind of man he was. I was afraid for the country. I was disappointed in my fellow citizens. That day, I was driving up to South Dakota, so had nine hours alone in my car to grieve and ruminate on how best to deal with what I knew was coming. I hoped I was wrong. I wasn’t.

But I do know the anger and despair so many Trump supporters are feeling today. Four years ago I didn’t believe there was any way enough people would fall for his con, or that he could possibly be elected. I trusted the polls. I trusted my fellow citizens. It’s part of why it was all so painful. So I get it. His supporters trusted Trump. They trusted him when he said the only way he could lose was if the Democrats cheated. His supporters surrounded themselves only with those that believe the same things and avoided anyone and anything that said anything different. They’ve believed everything he’s said for years. So to learn that he was wrong about this, is a gut punch. I saw their posts pre-election. They were 100% sure they were going to win. Been there, done that.

There are charges of fraud. If you have proof, then tell the proper authorities and let’s sort that out. I want a fair vote. I have no problem with a recount in Georgia or any other state where it’s necessary, because I want the count to be right, even if that means my candidate might lose the state. But that’s not good enough for his supporters. They only want in-person voting… so my friend who has a compromised immune system and rarely is able to go out in public, because she lives in South Dakota, where their complete lack of leadership has the virus raging out of control… she shouldn’t be allowed to have a voice? You’ve already taken away her freedom of movement, now she doesn’t get a vote?

And if you then say, “okay, she can vote by mail,” then what about me? I work with people who would likely die if they contracted the disease. I even have risk factors for getting a bad case msyelf. Should I be allowed to vote by mail? Yes? Okay, then we’re right back where we started. Each state did what they thought was best for their people, and they did it within their laws.

Trump fought to keep states from counting their mail in ballots early, counting on the anger and frustration his people would feel when they first saw him pull ahead with in-person voting, then day by day falling behind when the early voters’ ballots were counted. Those ballots were predominantly cast by Biden supporters because Trump told his people not to use mail-in ballots.

The fact that you weren’t prepared for the red-mirage, doesn’t mean you get to ask for a re-do and only count the ballots that went your way. Those votes were cast legally by the laws of each state, and if not, they have processes in place to catch those ballots. They are legally cast ballots and are valid. The only real way to commit fraud on the level required to alter the vote, is to reprogram the vote counting machines, and yet that’s not where we’re focused. Mail in voting has been done for over a hundred years, and is not the issue, regardless of what lies Trump spews.

The next few months are a bit scary. I see people posturing on social media, saying they’ve got the guns, and they’re going to war. Really? Have you thought it through? I mean really thought it through. Think about all the people you love. Your kids. Your parents, siblings, cousins, best friends, neighbors. Now pick a handful of them. Think about how much you love them. Now imagine lowering them into the ground and never seeing them again. Imagine your wife or husband being killed by a sniper as they went to buy groceries. Imagine your teenage son, who thought he would prove to you how tough he was, dead in the back of a pickup truck. Imagine going to bed at night, not sure if you’ll wake up, because your neighbors, who you once had barbecues with, might come over and kill you and your family in your sleep. Imagine never knowing if when you get in your car, there might be a car bomb strapped underneath. That’s civil war. People on your side die too. That’s what you are salivating for? Really?

I know the despair. I know the pain. When we were faced with a similar reality four years ago, when we were in despair, we held a march and we began to mobilize voter registration and a get-out-the-vote movements that lasted for the last four years. More people voted for Joe Biden than have ever voted for any president, so it clearly worked. If you don’t like the results, then get more people who think like you do, to vote. That’s how democracy works. That’s the American way. Ignoring the votes you don’t like is the authoritarian way.

When Obama was elected, I was so naive and looked forward to being a year into his term, knowing all those screaming that he was a Muslim, a communist, and a socialist, would see that he was none of those things and we could move forward together. I hadn’t factored in the disinformation machine that is Fox News.

This time I’m not naive. I no longer hope that a year into Biden’s term, the Trump supporters will come to realize that he’s not going to turn this country socialist. He’s not a communist. He’s not a pedophile. There are people who will continue to trust the latest conspiracy theory, even though the last 100 conspiracy theories they bought into, were proved not to be true. There are those who will never come around. But for those who begin to shake off all the lies they have heard in the last few years, we can move forward together, and hopefully the rest won’t go too far off the deep end while we make progress.

There was a joke going around the internet before the election. It went something like this:

There was a long line of people in line to vote early. Someone driving by slowed down, rolled down the window, and yelled, “How long have you been waiting?” And someone in line yelled, “Four years!.”

It’s been a long four years full of a great deal of pain for many, many people. Covid-19 is raging, and didn’t go away just because the election is over… yet another conspiracy theory proved wrong. We are going to suffer a great many more deaths before it gets better. It is going to take extraordinary effort by all of us to get it under control so we can get the economy and our lives back to normal. Our relationships with our allies are in tatters and trust is a difficult thing to rebuild. Authoritarian leaders around the world have been emboldened by our lack of leadership, and we’ll have to rebuild our reputation in order to deal with that. We need to rebuild our state department and intelligence agencies. Police and justice reform need to be tackled, and race relations repaired and strengthened. Our economy is struggling, with the poorest people suffering during this pandemic. It will take some incredibly remarkable policy and cooperation to end that suffering. We need to resolve our immigration and border problems. Climate change is causing disasters like we’ve never seen before.

I don’t envy Joe Biden and the mess he’s inherited, but I am grateful he stepped up and took on the task. I’m grateful we have leadership that believes in science, doctors, and facts. I’m grateful a man of morality and empathy is now leading our nation. I’m sorry if that upsets you. I wish it didn’t, because we have no desire to make conservatives cry.

Those of you willing to help, let’s get to work!

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The Best and Worst of Times

How many times have I heard the first line of A Tale of Two Cities? I always thought I knew what it meant, but now I feel it in my bones.

For those of us who see the big picture, the last few months have been difficult. It’s been like watching a slow motion train wreck. We see the tracks are laid straight towards a mountainside, and yet everyone on the train is celebrating because they think they’re finally going somewhere. We screamed. We hollered. We jumped up and down and waved our hands, trying to stop the train before it slams into the wall, and for that we were ignored and ridiculed.

The right had to make up garbage to fear about Obama – He’s a secret Muslim from Kenya who is going to bring sharia law to the US, take our guns, create death panels to kill our parents, and build FEMA camps to put all his enemies in. Despite us being the creative types, liberals didn’t have to imagine any fears of 45. He laid out his vision for this country, which included taking away people’s health care with no idea how to replace it, banning people for the accident of their place of birth and religion, and if not banning them, then making them register so that when the country needs to deal with them, they know just where to find them. He at one point wanted to punish women who have faced a difficult decision about a pregnancy, and made the choice HE thinks is wrong, because we women should all be subjected to what HE thinks. He thinks the environment is only there to be raped and profited from by big business. And he wants to turn us into a nation with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, a country that only thinks of itself and doesn’t care if we destroy other economies as long as we WIN! He has vowed to bring back torture, a policy that has never provided any actionable intelligence, but has created many, many enemies and endangered our troops. And as a cherry on top of the cake, he thinks nuclear weapons should be used if we have them.

He is a walking, talking, dystopian nightmare.

The damage these policies will do is immense and doesn’t take into account the damage that will be done by the policies of those pulling his strings. Those around him have learned it’s easy to control little donny… praise him and he’ll think you’re brilliant and listen to all your ideas. Criticize him and you’re going to be ridiculed, abused, and discarded. So, you want to privatize programs Americans have paid in to, and deserve to draw from… Paul Ryan just whispers sweet nothings in his ear, and voila… they’re working on plans to do away with the social safety net, despite 45’s promise to leave it alone. Easy peasy. He’s a puppet whose strings are pulled so easily.

We are becoming isolated in the world. Allies are not sharing intelligence. Trade deals are evaporating and becoming more difficult. If he continues on this path, we could face sanctions. Let’s hope it doesn’t go far enough that some other country decides we need regime change.

The despair is palpable among those who still believe in the promise of America – that all men (and women) are created equal and have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Not just those who look alike, think alike, love alike, and pray alike. All! Instead we’ve watched him dismantle the policies that protect our people and the environment. There are Nazis in the White House forming policy. I’ve tried to reach out for common understanding with the other side and the response seems to be, “We won, you lost. We’re right, you’re wrong. We don’t care about understanding.” So much for uniting the country. 45 is beginning to appear mentally unstable, and we’ve given that man the nuclear codes. I’ve heard silver-haired Americans say, “I’ve never been scared for my country like this before” and they lived through WWII. It feels like the worst of times.

Yet, despite this, it also the best of times. The Women’s March kicked it off. There is power in connection. There is power in unity. There is power in love. We who marched were drawn by the connection, unity, and love, then left completely empowered. We found our voice together. We found our purpose together. The sniping by the right couldn’t even take a dent out of it, probably because their criticisms were so off-base, and also because it was easy to see a tinge of exclusion and jealousy in their words. It’s okay. They enjoy their somewhat equal status because women like us marched for them, also with the criticism of conservative women of the time. Their granddaughters will thank us.

And our show of resistance led to the defiance of National Park employees, as well as other federal employees. Watching the rebellion grow was inspiring! It gave me hope like nothing else. The tyrant can sit in his high tower and issue all the decrees he wants, but if nobody follows them, he is nothing but a silly gas bag.

His most odious act so far, choosing to refuse the entry of refugees and others on National Holocaust Remembrance Day (but only from Muslim countries where he doesn’t do business) felt like a directive coming straight from Bannon and the alt-right(Nazis). It felt like a gut punch. And then we, the people, mobilized. The connections we’ve made allowed protests to spontaneously break out across the country in airport after airport. Americans of every color, size, and religious belief, stood side by side in defense of Iraqi translators, visiting relatives, and refugees who had spent two years being vetted, and were finally on the verge of safety.  The ACLU became our voice in the courts and stopped that atrocity for now.

The worst of times have woken us up to rediscover our connection to each other. It’s hammered in the lesson that democracy is not a spectator sport. We can’t just sit back and let politicians handle things. Without any leadership, we are bypassing the parties and finding each other and our power. We are talking. We are formulating plans. We are on the move. We are united. We are one. It is the best of times.

At our march, one speaker acknowledged that we were able to march that day because we stood on the shoulders of those who came before us. We called out their names in remembrance of their sacrifices. Standing there, I realized it was my turn to provide a place for future generations of women to stand. Our shoulders are needed. We have some very dark days ahead. The struggle is hardly won, but we know we will win because as MLK said, the arc of the moral universe is long, but it inevitably bends toward justice. There will be losses and casualties ahead, yet I see hope. And rebellions are built on hope.

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The Facts?

A quick update on the book… the major editing is done. Now it’s being proofed. The next step in the process is to edit and improve the synopses for each book in the trilogy and follow that with a killer query letter — one that makes the agents beg to read my manuscript.

Just in case nobody wants to read my stories, I am beginning to work on plan C. Plan A – Screenwriting. Plan B – Novel writing. Plan C – ?? I enjoy the place and people I work with so much, that it would make sense to try to increase my hours there. Over the next year I plan to get a couple of certifications that will allow me to teach some classes, and I have an idea that would add a new service to our fitness studio. Hopefully I will manage to keep a roof over my head somehow.

Of course, after the election I may have a harder time doing that. With one candidate, it’s likely I’ll be stripped of access to healthcare. I will likely have to quit a job I love, one that benefits society, in order to find a meaningless, corporate job whose sole purpose is to make rich people richer but that provides enough hours to give me insurance. Or I will just have to be a 52 year old woman without insurance, and hopefully I’ll get sick and die quickly, so as not to burden my fellow citizens.

I’m doing my best to fight the anxiety, but I can’t deny that I am terrified about Tuesday.  One thing I’ve gained is compassion for the people of Germany. I used to wonder how they could have let it happen and judged them for their apathy. I get it now. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how loudly you scream.

Though, according to political scientists, Trump is actually closer to Mussolini than Hitler. And, he can’t truly be called a fascist because he doesn’t control his own military. However, what they also pointed out was that the same fertile soil that grew this authoritarian is the same soil that grows fascists. That we could see Trump fade away only to be replaced by something much, much, much worse.

One thing we definitely need to correct this situation are journalists who report the facts. Though, on a side note, it’s frightening to see the same people who go rabid about the 2nd amendment yet are all too willing to abolish the 1st amendment. I guess they only love the parts of the constitution that fit with their worldview. And what better way to hang on to that worldview than to silence anyone who disagrees with it.

Anyway, right now, if you are a conservative, you watch and read news with one set of facts presented by people who agree with you, and if you’re a progressive, you watch and read news reported by those who agree with you. So, you can have one event, and two people can believe completely different facts about it.

For example. In the last day, Trump has relished in telling the story of how Obama screamed at a Trump supporter in his audience. He said, “Obama today spoke in front of a much smaller crowd than this, by the way, and there was a protester. And a protester that likes us. And what happened is they wouldn’t put the cameras on him. They kept the cameras on Obama. And I said, ‘That’s strange.’ You saw it today on television, right?

He was talking to the protester — screaming at him, really screaming at him. By the way, if I spoke the way Obama spoke to that protester, they would say, ‘He became unhinged! He became —’ You have to go back and look and study. And see what happened. They never moved the camera. And he spent so much time screaming at this protester and, frankly, it was a disgrace.”

That’s Trump’s view of events. And the problem is, because it came out of his mouth, his supporters believe him without question. They don’t need to look it up. It doesn’t matter how many times you point out the facts, they will always just scream back, “Is to! Nanny nanny boo boo!” Just like now after Trump said the FBI had found the mother lode of Hillary emails, it makes no difference that the FBI says there’s nothing there. Trump said it, it’s true.

Now, just so you can see for yourself, here’s what really happened:

Unhinged? A disgrace? If it wasn’t so frightening it would be a little funny how almost every single one of Trump’s accusations against his opponents highlight his own flaws. I consider encouraging your supporters to attack protesters and offering to pay their legal bills is unhinged and disgraceful.

Yet, conservatives only saw Trump’s version, because that’s what places like Fox News covered, and everyone else saw both versions. The point is, when 1/2 of Americans are getting one set of “facts” and the other half is getting another, how do we ever figured this mess out? We won’t. We’ll just keep fighting each other while the 1% cleans up.

I don’t know what to say anymore. This entire election has become mind numbing. Soul numbing. Everything numbing.

When we can’t even share the facts, how do we share a country?

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In Guns We Trust

In 1956, the United States adopted “In God We Trust” as our motto. It’s time for an update, because clearly the overriding sentiment now is, “In Guns We Trust.”

I grew up in the 70s on a farm. We had guns, though we were not really hunters. They came in handy protecting chickens from rats and skunks and the like. Thankfully, I once watched my brother shoot a charging rabid skunk. Guns do have their uses in rural areas. During that time, the NRA was a somewhat benevolent force in the community, offering free gun safety classes to 6th graders. We did live in a world of guns, and it was good to provide basic gun safety education for kids who might not get it from their parents. Things like – always assume a gun is loaded, don’t point guns at people, etc.

According to my research, the NRA changed in 1977 when hardliners took over the organization and began to push an absolutist reading of the 2nd amendment. They overlooked that little part about a “well regulated militia” which made sense in a country yet without a standing army. We needed the citizens to be armed in order to call them to action quickly without the time needed to build an arsenal. Common sense. Instead, the interpretation became that God and the founders wanted every citizen to be armed for self-protection and for protection of an over-reaching government – yeah, like a few rifles and handguns are going to stop drones, missiles, and tanks.

The NRA pushed fear, more people bought guns, and more people joined the NRA. This meant a windfall of money for the NRA. In fact, this happens every time there is a mass shooting. They sell nothing but fear, and Americans gobble it up.

They developed slogans like, “when guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns” despite the fact that nobody was suggesting guns be outlawed, only regulated. Then there was “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” True, but people with guns kill a whole lot more people than people without guns. If you were in that conference room in San Bernardino, would you rather have seen 2 people walk in with assault rifles, or knives? I’d vote for knives. Guaranteed they wouldn’t have killed 12 people. The latest slogan is, “The only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun. Absolutely not true. When a man had a kalishnikov on a French train, the thing that stopped him was two corageous, unarmed men who acted and tackled the man with the gun. Yet, in 2014, after a couple killed two police officers and retreated to a Walmart store, a good guy with a concealed weapon thought he could be a hero and take out the bad guys. He paid for the overassessment of his skills with his life. Handling a firearm, and dealing with bad guys takes actual training and skill. That’s why people go through intense fire arms training as a police officer or soldier. And because most gun owners aren’t really trained, they have a higher risk of homicide, suicide, or accidental death than people who don’t own guns.

In fact, it’s surprising that people aren’t talking about the role of gun proliferation in police violence. After the North Hollywood shootout, when officers were so outmatched by assault rifles and body armor, an arms race began. Police departments realized that with everything on the street, they needed to be better armed. Their fear of us grew. Then our fear of them grew. It has become an arms and fear race. It’s not really surprising they are quick to protect themselves in a world where more and more people are armed. Welcome to the wild west folks. Thanks to the NRA and the gun culture, we’ve reverted back to might makes right instead of the rule of law.

Another element that adds to the fear that has driven gun sales and NRA membership – Pro-gun advocates have pushed the narrative that Obama is trying to take away our guns. Hopefuly we can all get out of the FEMA camps and escape the death panels in order to get our guns back from Obama when his term ends. Oh wait… in fact, Obama has only signed two gun laws during his presidency and BOTH expanded gun rights. Does he call for new restrictions, yes, but does anything get done by the politicians in the pocket of the NRA? Nope.

In a world saturated with laws, it seems a shame to add more, but there are huge holes in our gun laws. If you go to a retail store, yes, there is a background check and waiting period. But why bother with that? Just go to a gun show and buy them without any questions asked. Or, perhaps find someone who has a gun to sell, and just get it from them. It’s all perfectly legal, and it doesn’t matter if you’re mentally unstable, angry, homicidal, a child, a criminal, drunk, high, or a terrorist. So, closing that loophole would go a long way in preventing guns from getting into the wrong hands.

My idea, though I’m sure the gun nuts would hate it, is to require all guns to be registered, just like a car. You would also need to prove your ability to operate the machinery, just like a car. Once registered, the owner would bear all responsibility for what happened with it. You leave it unsecured and a criminal steals it and commits a crime with it… you are just as resonsible as the criminal because you did not secure a deadly weapon. A child finds it and accidentally shoots someone, you are legally responsible for the results and not securing your gun. Only when ownership is transferred to another registered owner, is your liabity for owning that weapon at an end. Simple.

However, I also believe that even that would not stop this problem until we change our culture. Right now, a great many Americans do believe that it is in guns we trust. Mad? Solve it with a gun. Hurt? Solve it with a gun. Lonely? Solve it with a gun. Afraid? Solve it with a gun. Disenfranchised? Solve it with a gun. Whatever problem you have, the gun is the answer. In Guns We Trust.

Many people have tied guns and God together, yet the Bible teaches that God is in control of all things, provides for the birds of the air and flowers of the field, and instructs in Luke 12:7 “Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” For me the crux of that passage is DON’T BE AFRAID! The King James version of the Bible advises against fear 365 times. Some scholars say it is the over-riding message of the Bible. But guns, unless you are solely a hunter or target shooter, are about protection, which is nothing but fear.

I have no solutions to offer. I don’t know how to change our culture. It has come to my awareness that all actions can be divided into one of two categories – Love or Fear. Love’s actions lead to goodness, but nothing good comes from fear. Right now, our country is running on fear.

So, my final thought is that until you are willing to rely on your prayers to God to lead you, protect you and act in love, then you are not allowed to ask others to rely on your prayers for comfort after a mass shooting. Your prayers mean nothing, because your true faith and your motto is In Guns We Trust and you’re part of this nation’s fear problem.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather