Exploring DC: The National Archives

If you want to tie up a visit to Washington DC in a perfect bow, then your last stop should be the National Archives.

Recently Dear Husband and I took a trip that we are calling “Autumn Back East 2021”. Our goal was to visit friends and family, and I wanted to show DH what autumn leaves really look like in a region that isn’t primarily covered in evergreen trees, and introduce him to our nation’s capital.

We flew to Atlanta, picked up a rental car, then drove to Alabama, North Florida, Georgia, Eastern Tennessee, Western North Carolina, and then drove to Washington DC by way of Virginia. Then we flew back home.

It was an amazing trip which lasted 15 days, and since I’m now only blogging every other day, if I gave you a day to day account like I have on trips past, it would take a month, and you’d be heartily sick of the subject before we even left peach country. So I’ve decided to focus on highlights, which I’ll do my best to keep in order. You can find the first post in the series here, and a link to the next post in the series, when it becomes available, below.

This had been an amazing vacation, but after 15 days, it was time for Dear Husband and I to go home and hug our dogs. I firmly believe that any vacation that lasts longer than that has diminishing returns. By day 16, your homesickness and exhaustion begin to overtake your excitement and joy. So, we eagerly packed up our things, but stored our luggage at the hotel because there was one last stop that we wanted to make before heading to the airport.

If you want to tie up a visit to Washington DC in a perfect bow, then your last stop should be the National Archives. As of this writing, thanks to the pandemic, one must have a timed-entry ticket in order to visit, but admission is still free. (If you plan to sightsee anywhere at all during COVID, it pays to plan months in advance. A lot is still closed or is requiring reservations.)

The National Archives houses not only our nation’s founding documents, but also, according to their website, “records that trace the story of our nation, government, and the American people.” Even my StoryCorps interview is housed somewhere therein. I had forgotten that until I started writing this post. I should have visited it.

When you approach this majestic building, you can tell the architect intended this to be a place of reverence. It is a place of significance. It is a veritable temple to our nation’s history.

The steps are flanked by two statues. Carved beneath the one on the left are the words “The heritage of the past is the seed that brings forth the harvest of the future.” Beneath the one on the right: “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” That definitely sets the tone.

The first thing most people do upon entering (and we were no exception), is make a beeline for the 70-foot-tall Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom. It is there where our nation’s most valuable documents are housed. These include the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.

To get to this rotunda, you have to pass through a set of 40-foot-tall bronze doors. The lighting is subdued, and there are guards around the perimeter, flanking each document case. And these are not Johnny Rent-a-Cops, either. You can tell that this is not a place for shenanigans. They mean business. I can’t remember for sure if they were armed, because no photographs are allowed and I was focused on the documents, but armed or not, these men and women were taking their jobs extremely seriously, and I was convinced that if I had tried anything (although nothing springs to mind) they’d have taken me down in the blink of an eye. Given that so many of my fellow Americans seem hellbent on eroding our democracy, I found their presence a comfort.

According to this article, preservation of these documents is a shockingly new idea. For example, the Declaration of Independence was written in 1776, so it’s currently 245 years old, but for the first 127 years of its existence, it didn’t really occur to anyone that maybe special measures should be taken so that it would still be around for future generations. It was horribly abused and neglected in those early years, and the article describes that in detail. At one point it was tacked to a wall like a boy band poster. I’m amazed that there is anything left to look at, to be honest. The article also describes current preservation efforts.

Today these documents are benefiting from very advanced preservation techniques. The cases that house them are made of titanium. The glass that you look through to see them is bullet-proof. To avoid further deterioration, the cases are filled with inert argon gas. And every night, after the tourists have disbursed, these documents, along with their cases, are lowered into a vault that is 22 feet below the floor. We should all be taken care of so well.

I can’t begin to describe to you how much reverence and awe I felt while gazing at these documents. We’ve all seen pictures of them, of course, but here they were, right in front of me. The very bedrock of our democracy. (I wish I could have taken pictures for you guys, but I wasn’t looking to get shot.)

Let’s focus on our constitution, which was created in 1788, 12 years after our Declaration of Independence. It is the first permanent, codified constitution in the world. We had broken free of Great Britain, and they don’t have a codified constitution to this very day. That was something I learned only recently. (How on earth do you function without a constitution?)

In this country, we are taught to revere our constitution as if it were a religious document. We are told that ours is the greatest country in the world, and that this document is what made it all possible. Just as we pledge allegiance to the flag every single day in school and even at sporting events, we also used to sing hymns to our government during the commercial breaks as we children watched our Saturday morning cartoons. I still know the preamble to the Constitution because of those nifty bits of propaganda.

According to this list of national constitutions, the next constitution didn’t come about until 1814, and that was for Norway. But the vast majority of national constitutions weren’t ratified until after 1950. Cuba didn’t have one until 2019. So in that way, ours is pretty remarkable.

But here’s the thing (Yeah, yeah, there’s always a thing.): Our constitution is not the word of God. As a matter of fact, it has a lot of flaws that were corrected by subsequent countries. For example, it didn’t specify who could vote, and that has caused people without land, people of color, and the female half of our population a great deal of trouble throughout the years. If you look at our constitution and include all the amendments, it lists 26 rights for its citizens. The average bill of rights for other countries lists 60 rights. And only two other countries besides ours (Mexico and Guatemala) feel the need to list the right to keep and bear arms. And our gun violence statistics are the worst in the world.

Our Constitution hasn’t kept up with modern times by any stretch of the imagination. And yet, if you want to conduct an amusing little experiment, approach Americans, one by one, and tell them their constitution should be scrapped and completely rewritten, as the constitutions of many countries have been in order to keep up with a maturing culture. The looks of sheer horror on their faces will be priceless. We’ve been fed a reverence for this document with our mother’s milk. That’s great if that’s how you interpret patriotism. But that means our constitution is completely rigid and inflexible and no longer serves us well.

Yes, we’ve had 27 amendments to the original document, but they are few and far between. Number 27 was ratified in 1992, but before that, number 26 was in 1971. I’ll be shocked if another amendment is ratified in my lifetime. That’s a shame, because so much needs to be addressed that isn’t. The lack of amendments is not proof of a perfect document, but further evidence that this nation has been so polarized that I fear we’ll never be able to come to an agreement on anything.

We can’t even agree as to the founding fathers’ original intent with the second amendment, which was ratified in 1791, when we were still terrified that the British would overthrow our country. To them, “arms” were single shot rifles that could be fired only once every 30 seconds, and they were wielded by trained, responsible men, primarily to put food on the table. I’m quite sure that the founding fathers would have been horrified to see modern teenagers toting assault rifles.

I truly believe that it would be better to start fresh with a new constitution that is written with the knowledge and insight which comes from a more enlightened and inclusive society, one which has hopefully learned from its mistakes. Things like “All American citizens who are 18 or older shall not be prohibited from voting.” Yeah, I know. Never going to happen.

Having said all that, I was still awed by what I got to see in that rotunda. I’m sure it was part lifelong indoctrination, and part respect for this amazing democratic experiment of ours, but what it translates to is pure veneration. I’m very glad that this was our last stop in Washington DC. These documents are why DC, and the rest of this country as we know it, exists. It was only fitting to pay homage.

There are other displays in the National Archives, including one of four surviving originals of the Magna Carta that was written in 1297. It is the first known document that spells out human rights. Most of it wouldn’t work today as they were living in a feudal system, but the idea that humans should have rights, as evidenced by the Magna Carta, is what inspired our Charters of Freedom. I could not believe I was looking at this amazing charter.

I’ll be writing about a few of the other National Archives displays in a separate post, but for all intents and purposes, dear reader, this is the last official post for this particular vacation. Thanks for taking the journey with me. It’s been quite a trip!

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Mondragon Corporation: A Lesson in Cooperation

There are alternatives to capitalism.

Much has been made of late about the income inequality in the United States. I hope that the clamor becomes ever louder, because, as one meme about Jeff Bezos states, “If a monkey hoarded more bananas than it could eat, while most of the other monkeys starved, scientists would study that monkey to figure out what the heck was wrong with it. When humans do the same thing, we put them on the cover of Forbes.”

Something definitely has to change. Nobody needs that many bananas. I find it difficult to understand why anyone would even want that many bananas. Eating too many bananas can only lead to bloating and constipation.

That’s the problem with this country. It is bloated on its own greed. It is constipated when it comes to compassion for the less fortunate. The system is not healthy.

We could learn a great deal from the Mondragon Corporation. I first heard about this organization by listening to a talk on income inequality by Noam Chomsky. He was discussing alternatives to capitalism, as he quite often does, and he held Mondragon up as the most advanced case of a worker-owned cooperative in the world. Naturally, I had to learn more about it.

According to its own website as well as Wikipedia and an article entitled, “Mondragon through a Critical Lens”, this corporation originates in the Basque region of Spain, and because of it, that region went from being the poorest in Spain 65 years ago, to being by far the richest region. Starting off as a small worker-owned company, it has expanded to more than 100 different cooperatives, employing more than 81,000 people.

We aren’t unfamiliar with cooperatives here in the U.S. Many of us bank at credit unions, shop at independent grocery stores, live in housing cooperatives, or obtain our food from agricultural cooperatives. Given the fact that cooperatives are responsible for more than 500 billion in revenue here, it surprises me that they aren’t given more press.

Well, it does and it doesn’t surprise me, actually. Given that unions are squelched in red states, and large companies, like Amazon, are terrified of them, people certainly don’t want workers to gain too much power in this country. Chaos could ensue. People might, like, start earning living wages rather than having that money go to stockholders. We can’t have that, now, can we?

Mondragon begs to differ. Its primary goal is to maximize employment and give employees the dignity of having a say in their own destiny, to further the well-being of the workers as a whole.

Their cooperatives are mostly industrial, but they also include the finance, retail and knowledge sectors. They have discovered that competing in technical niche markets make them competative on a global scale, and since their jobs require more than a basic education, they’re less apt to be competing with underpaid workers overseas.

Mondragon’s workers also own their own bank, university, social welfare agency, supermarket chain and several business incubators. They have their own pension and medical plans, and on the average, executives are only allowed to earn 5 times as much as the lowest paid employee. The ratio in question is voted on by the employees.

One employee, one vote is the rule. And that means that the CEO has no more power in the fate of the company than the guy who scrubs the toilets. In fact, the administrators work for the employees, not the other way around. How refreshing.

Mondragon is also a lot more adaptable than a typical bureaucracy. They are very dedicated to collaborative decision making, and because of that they can break free of old-guard, stuck-in-their-ways attitudes. Since the employees have an equal say, the decisions are made based on the current facts, not on old habits.

Mondragon employees get much better health care than the average American, and their pensions are 80 percent of their former salaries. They have extensive unemployment benefits. In addition, if one cooperative fails, the vast majority of the employees are absorbed by the other cooperatives, so there is a great deal of income security.

Is Mondragon perfect? Not by a long shot. It is still having to compete in an international, mostly capitalist market, so it has had to make some uncomfortable choices. For example, it does have international employees as well, and while they are employed by the cooperatives, they’re not owners as the other employees are. Therefore they don’t reap all the benefits and they don’t have a say in the decisions. Supposedly they are still treated well, but it’s a disturbing trend.

Another issue is that women are severely underrepresented in Mondragon. I suspect that has to do with it originating in a macho culture, and also the fact that for various reasons, women don’t seem to pursue engineering educations as often as men do, and Mondragon is an engineering-heavy employer. But when women do get jobs within this system, they get equal pay. That must be nice.

And while everyone at Mondragon has a vote, that doesn’t necessarily mean that each person is educating themselves on the issues in question. So not all votes are informed ones.

Another hurdle is that when you only pay your CEOs reasonable wages rather than obscenely high ones, it’s hard to get the best and brightest people to apply for the job. It could be argued, though, that those who do apply have their priorities intact. That counts for something. But it’s a rare bureaucrat who has his or her priorities intact.

It may be a flawed system, but it seems a lot less flawed than what the majority of us experience in America. I definitely believe it merits further study. And I think the Green energy movement in this country, as it is relatively young, could start out as a cooperative and thrive. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we, the people, actually created clean energy while benefiting from our endeavors?

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Oh No You Don’t

Just try putting roadblocks between me and the voting booth.

I just read an article entitled, “Georgia Bill Would Criminalize Giving Water to Voters Waiting in Long Lines.” It brought me right back to standing in line to vote in Florida, year after year, in the blistering heat, on black pavement, for hours. It was brutal. I’ve gotten spoiled here in Washington State, where I can vote by mail.

Here’s the thing that I will never understand about politicians and voter suppression. If you push for these dirty tricks, you are saying, loud and clear, that you believe that the only way you can win an election is by cheating. That’s not a good look.

You have so many weapons in your voter suppression arsenal. Limiting hours at voting locations. Preventing voting by mail. Gerrymandering your district. Claiming that your tactics are only to prevent voter fraud, which has been proven time and time again to be virtually nonexistent. Requiring extensive paperwork in order to get a Voter ID. Prohibiting former felons from voting. Making the polls difficult to find or get to. And the list goes on and on and on. And on.

Yes, I get it. You’re hungry for power, and you’re willing to obtain that power by any means necessary. But the more people you alienate from the voting process, the fewer people who will want to vote for your party. What does it feel like, to shoot yourself in the foot like that?

Put roadblocks between me and the voting booth? Oh, hell no. That motivates me. I’ll crawl naked through ground glass to vote if I have to. Especially if it means I get to vote against someone who is promoting voter suppression laws. Make it as hard as you want to. I’ll still find a way to vote, and I’ll help others be able to vote, too.

Nothing will stop me from demonstrating my patriotism by voting. By trying to stop me, all you’re doing is pissing me off. And you won’t like me when I’m pissed off.

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Uncounted: The History and Impact of Voter Supression

My notes from a great seminar presented by Humanities Washington.

Recently I attended a zoom seminar presented by Humanities Washington, along with KUOW, KPBX and Northwest Public Broadcasting. The speaker’s panel consisted of Angelique M. Davis, professor of political science at Seattle University; Representative Debra Lekanoff, 40th Legislative District; Josué Estrada, University of Washington doctoral candidate in history; and Terry Anne Scott, director of African American Studies at Hood College. It was moderated by Johann Neem, professor of history at Western Washington University.

Here was the introduction to the discussion:

This year, 160 bills have been introduced in 33 states that would restrict voting—four times as many as during the same period in 2020.

American democracy is often spoken of in lofty language, but between the lines is a more troubling story of exclusion and discrimination. Historically, voter suppression has taken many forms, including limiting eligibility to white male landowners, Jim Crow-era methods like poll taxes and literacy tests, and modern-day disinformation campaigns. The conspiracy theory about a stolen election in 2020 is proving useful to bolster support for another round of restrictions.

Yet the American story is also one of progress, including women’s suffrage and the Voting Rights Act. This will be a discussion that explores the forces that push and pull on our right to vote. How does our past impede our future, both nationally and in Washington? What does modern-day voter suppression look like? Though Washington’s mail-in voting system is considered a nationwide model, what problems remain in our state? Where can we find hope? And how can we simply ensure that every vote—and every voter—counts?

What follows are the notes I took during the fascinating seminar. They are a little disjointed, but they’ll give you an idea of some of the points that were being made.

There are many ways to increase voter access. Some can be as simple as including prepaid postage. Others more complex, like making sure the polls are wheelchair accessible, and extending the hours at polling places. Here in Washington state, we have mail in ballots and ballot boxes for those who don’t want to use the mail. But even in this state, there were no ballot boxes on Native American reservations until 2016. In fact, Native Americans did not get the right to vote until 1962, 168 years after our constitution was written.

In this day and age, most people do not want to be viewed as racist, so voter suppression tactics have become more subtle. Instead of blatantly coming out and saying that the goal is to disempower people of color, or that they want to govern without the input of others, they are now using the big lie that there is voter fraud that must be dealt with. This modified message achieves the same results.

According to the Brennan Center for Justice, “it is still more likely for an American to be struck by lightning than to commit voter fraud either through in-person voting or with mail ballots.”

Voter fraud should not be used as an excuse to prevent people from voting. If anything, the more people who vote, the more likely any miniscule amount of fraud would be watered down. The people have a right to speak. Every one of us.

Preventing former felons from voting is a direct attack on low income people and people of color. People in this category who want to vote are demonstrating that they want to be productive and participating members of society. This should be encouraged.

Why do so many poor people buy into the importance of suppressing votes? Because there is a psychology of white privilege and white entitlement in this country that tells them that their way of life is dependent upon the suffering of others. If minorities get to vote and influence election outcomes, they’ll overtake and pass these people, is the current thinking. But that’s absurd, because when democracy is suppressed, we all suffer the results.

Another tactic that is being used at the present is drumming into people’s heads that the system is broken, which causes some to not even participate in the voting process. THAT is what truly breaks the system.

We need to create a culture in our families and communities that voting is your power. We need to encourage that attitude at every opportunity. We need to remind people that many have died to give you the right to vote, and it is therefore our responsibility to exercise that right.

We need to closely examine our racial and social contract to understand who we consider human. Humans, by definition, should be able to vote if they’re living in a democracy. People who don’t speak the language but are still citizens are humans. People who have served their time for committing a crime are human. Indigenous people are human. Poor people are human. Women are human. People that don’t look like you are human.

When the question and answer period came about, I asked, “How do we break through the ‘I only listen to one news source’ echo chamber to allow facts about voter suppression to be heard?”

This got a lot of interesting responses. One person said that we need to advocate for voting. Another said we need to have those uncomfortable conversations, and that requires that we be informed, and know what the underlying intent is to various voter suppression laws. Speak up. Spread the word.

State Representative Lekanoff had some encouraging news for Washington state. We’re about to go through the process of redistricting, and for the first time ever, there are multiple members of the board who are people of color. I suspect a lot of lines are going to be redrawn. That makes me really happy.

I once called this country a democratic experiment, and several of my more conservative cousins were infuriated. But I still maintain that this is an experiment. It can be tampered with. It can fail or succeed. Without vigilance, it can be circumvented, as is becoming increasingly obvious. It takes all of us, actively participating, continually, to ensure that this experiment is a success.

Please vote, and engage in political protest. Participate in this experiment. Thanks.

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Living through History

We lived through history yesterday, and it was for the most part shameful. If you think killing a woman in the Capitol Building is acceptable or, worse yet, heroic, if you can say you love people who would do such a thing, if you call people who mounted an insurrection “true patriots”, then you are a moral reprobate.

A woman died. And she was a Trump supporter to boot. At what point do you admit that things have gotten out of control? At what point do you say enough is enough?

Our transitions of power have always been peaceful until now, even when the results stuck in the craw of the majority. Are you proud of yourselves? Do you have any idea what you’ve done to democracy?

The only reason I said “for the most part shameful” up above is that Georgia, a state I’d long since given up on, just managed to elect their first black senator ever, and also the youngest senator. That’s history, too. I wish that was what I could focus on, because it’s miraculous. But no. Shame on the insurrectionists.

Oh, and then, on top of everything else, protestors blocked my bridge for 15 minutes yesterday, too. 6 cars, blocking every lane of traffic, completely strangling the Seattle evening commute. I have no idea what they were protesting, and frankly, I don’t care. It accomplished nothing but ill will. It didn’t further anyone’s agenda. It was just negative energy. And it stressed me out and caused paperwork.

So, yeah, weird day at best.

I’ll leave you with this wisdom from a meme, in the hopes that it will cause you to untangle some pretzel logic if you happen to be experiencing it:

“You might be in a cult if you believe that:

You can’t trust the votes.

You can’t trust paper ballots.

You can’t trust judges at the polling places.

You can’t trust polling observers.

You can’t trust voting machines.

You can’t trust state canvassing committees.

You can’t trust state recounts.

You can’t trust 50 Secretaries of State.

You can’t trust the National administrator for election security.

You can’t trust Trump’s Attorney General.

You can’t trust Trump’s FBI.

You can’t trust the states circuit court judges.

You can’t trust US district court judges, including Trump appointees.

You can’t trust US Supreme Court judges, including Trump’s appointees.

You can’t trust the last ten Secretaries of Defense.

BUT you can trust Donald Trump.”

A Pig’s Head? Seriously?

If you’re the one person who hasn’t heard of this by now, two days ago some sick individuals vandalized the home of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. They painted graffiti all over her garage door. “$2K” with a line through it, referring to the stimulus check debacle (as if that were her fault rather than Mitch McConnell’s). “Cancel Rent”. Anarchist symbols. “We want everything”.

This, in and of itself, is outrageous. But the fact that there was fake blood, along with, I kid you not, a pig’s head on the public sidewalk, really puts it over the top. This is straight up insane. What if a child had come across that? Fortunately, the head was removed by 3 a.m., so the odds of some kid being traumatized for life are slim. But that was pure luck.

Things are really getting out of hand. And I’m not just saying that because I’m a democrat and she’s a democrat. I’d say that regardless of the public servant who was targeted.

Public service has become a bit of a full contact sport these days. The mayor of Seattle isn’t running for reelection because of the people who are constantly milling about her private residence, chanting. Her family hasn’t been able to live a normal life since she took office.

And make no mistake, these types of behavior are acts of violence. They say, “I’m willing to destroy your life as well as your property.” And if you’re capable of chopping off a pig’s head to make a point, how much farther would you be willing to go? I mean, it takes some effort to gain access to a pig’s head in metropolitan San Francisco. They’d have had to drive quite a distance with that thing in their vehicle. Plenty of time to think about what you’re about to do. And yet, at the end of the journey, they still seem to have thought this was a good idea.

Who does that? What kind of psychopath does that? How angry and stupid do you have to be? This message says a lot more about you than it ever will about your victim.

A really terrifying thing is that I came across one article that published Pelosi’s address. Online. You can’t unring that bell. It’s out there now. How must that feel?

What did these people think they were going to achieve? Is Ms. Pelosi capable of issuing the $2K checks that so many people desperately need? Obviously not, because she was in favor of it, and it’s not going to come to pass. The Republicans rejected the plan twice, even though Trump is also in favor of it. Can she cancel rent? No. Can she give whomever this is the “everything” they feel they so richly deserve? Stupid.

And these people, whomever they may be, are now walking through life knowing that they did this thing. I’m sure they feel justified in their own minds, or they wouldn’t have done it in the first place. But that rot, that poison, will forever be inside of them. As long as they live, deep down, they will forever be people who left a pig’s head on a public sidewalk. That is who they are. I’m sure they’ll never admit that domestic terrorism to anyone, even a prospective partner. And that secret will add to the rot. Well done, you buffoons.

We need the best of the best to run for public office if we want the best democratic results. If this is the type of thing that one can expect for making this sacrifice, do you really think the best people won’t think twice about stepping forward? It’s hard enough, being under constant scrutiny, without having to worry about pig’s heads. This act was a violation of Pelosi, but it was also a blow to democracy itself.

Disgusting. This behavior just reinforces my belief that some humans are really lower life forms and have a long way to go to earn the designation “civilized”. We forget that we, too, are animals, and unfortunately not all of us are domesticated. And this belief of mine has nothing to do with race, creed, politics, economic status, origin, or education level. It’s based purely on the choices you make and the actions you take. By those will you be judged.

To the vandals: If your mother would be proud of this, then clearly the f***ed up apple hasn’t fallen too far from the twisted tree.

End of rant.

Mid-Month Marvels: The League of Women Voters

I can think of no organization that I trust more.

A recurring theme in this blog is the celebration of people and/or organizations that have a positive impact on their communities. What they do is not easy, but it’s inspirational, and we don’t hear enough about them. So I’ve decided to commit to singing their praises at least once a month. I’m calling it Mid-Month Marvels. If you have any suggestions for the focus of this monthly spotlight, let me know in the comments below!

Without a doubt, the looming presidential election is the most important one ever held in America. I genuinely want everyone to vote. This will shape our nation and, indeed, determine if it even exists as a democracy moving forward. I cannot stress this enough: Please vote.

Having said that, there is no better organization for me to promote this month than the League of Women Voters. It is a completely nonpartisan organization that has but one agenda: preserving everyone’s right to vote. If you believe in democracy at all, this is an organization worth supporting.

The League is celebrating its 100th year, as women (white ones, at least) were given the right to vote in the 1920’s, and the League evolved from the women’s suffrage movement that obtained that right. The League was instrumental in establishing the United Nations. They sponsored the first televised presidential debates. They maintain a website called VOTE411.org, which provides nonpartisan information about both state and national elections. I can’t tell you how many times I have referred to this site for information.

The League of Women Voters website advocates for the following:

  • Voter registration

  • The COVID Elections Fund to ensure safe and accessible elections.

  • Fighting voter suppression

  • Removing money from politics

  • Fighting gerrymandering.

No matter which side of the political debate you fall on, surely these are issues that all of us can agree upon if we want a genuine democracy. I can think of no organization that I trust more with these tasks than the League of Women Voters. Please join me in supporting them here.


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The Op-Ed

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know exactly which Op-Ed I’m referring to.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know exactly which Op-Ed I’m referring to. If you haven’t read it (and I hope you have), then you’ve at least heard about it. I’m talking about the anonymous Op-Ed in the New York Times, written by a senior official in the Trump administration, and published on September 5, 2018.

Entitled I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration, it is easily the most important Op-Ed in this nation’s history. It reveals the cracks in the foundation of the White House, and by extension, in our very democracy. It basically asserts what we Democrats have been saying all along: The emperor has no clothes.

Some of the many things this Op-Ed accuses our president of are:

  • Not fully grasping things.

  • Having misguided impulses.

  • Being amoral.

  • Having an impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective leadership style.

  • Ranting.

  • Being impulsive.

  • Behaving erratically.

  • Being unstable.

  • Making bad decisions.

This is the guy who is steering the ship of state. Right toward a freakin’ iceberg. This is the man who is tampering with our judicial system, our environment, our foreign trade, our citizenry, and our alliances. This guy, with his misguided impulses, is never more than a few feet from the football.

If you’re not freaked out, you’re not paying attention. But Trump is. And his head’s exploding.

But here’s what scares me even more: if this Op-Ed is true, and a lot of the senior officials are doing what they can to resist this insane man’s worst instincts, then the guy we put into office, love him or hate him, is being thwarted at every turn. In this specific case, I thank God for that. I’d really rather not be at ground zero for a Trumpian mushroom cloud.

But think of it in the broader context. If it’s possible to do that, then we will never be able to be confident in another president ever again. Based on this Op-Ed, presidents have been rendered powerless. We are being ruled by anonymous bureaucrats. And while the author of this Op-Ed probably meant his essay to comfort us all in these uncertain times, it kind of gives me the chills. Because I want to know who’s really in charge.

It’s time to clean house.


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Mean World Syndrome

People alive today have access to more news and entertainment than any human being in the history of the planet. If anything major happens in the world, we are all able to find out about it almost instantly. We’ve come a long way from the days when a hurricane could hit Long Island without any advanced warning for its residents. Surely that’s to our benefit, right?

Yes and no. We also have more access to misinformation and exaggeration, and our ability to think critically does not seem to be keeping apace. That means that many of us believe that the world is more dangerous than it actually is. This is called mean world syndrome, and it’s a serious problem.

If you don’t believe that your attitudes are shaped by the media, then you haven’t been paying attention. Without its influence, there’s no way that someone so deranged and unqualified could be in the White House. Without it, none of us would feel the need to keep up with the Kardashians. (For what it’s worth, I’ve never felt that need. But then, I don’t have a TV in my house, either.)

If it’s any comfort at all, according to this Public Radio International article, the world is a much safer pace than it used to be. War deaths have dramatically decreased. We just hear about them more often. We all work fewer hours each week. There is less poverty and homicide, and more democracy than ever before.

And this article from Psychology Today also states that violence against women and children has decreased worldwide. We are more likely to die of old age than in a hail of bullets.

And, lest we forget, the average life expectancy for the residents of this planet is now up in the 70’s, as opposed to age 48 back in 1950. That’s pretty remarkable, don’t you think? So stop what you’re doing, look about you, and breathe. It’s going to be okay. Odds are pretty good that you won’t encounter any lions or tigers or bears. Oh, my.


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An Open Letter to President Obama

Dear Mr. President:

I remember crying tears of joy when you were elected back in 2008. It felt like this nation had turned a very important corner and that we, as a society, were becoming enlightened. I was very proud.

I also cried tears of relief when Obamacare was passed. It meant I’d have health insurance for the first time in over a decade. I was finally able to sleep through the night, no longer having to worry about what would happen to me if I got sick or injured.

I also watched as you brought the economy back, kicking and screaming, after the human wrecking ball that was George W. Bush. You had to start 30 yards deep in your own end zone with that one. But you did it. You also overturned his torture policies. Well done!

You reduced restrictions on stem-cell research, thus allowing science to take several important steps forward. You also strengthened the Endangered Species Act, and were the first president to openly acknowledge climate change.

I was particularly proud when you repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and made it legal for anyone to marry the person whom they love. This allowed many of my friends and family to live the happy lives they deserved, and share the rights that I’ve always had.

And you had the most diverse cabinet in American history. That was impressive.

We all know that in a Trump administration there will be a roll back of many of these accomplishments. It’s heart breaking. It’s frustrating. It’s the dark side of democracy.

But you have a chance to do one last, epic thing before leaving office, a last good-bye, if you will, to show the American people that the Democratic Party is still the party for all of us, it hasn’t totally sold out, and that there is hope for the future.

You could stop the travesty of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Show that we respect the sacred lands of people who have been here much longer than America has.  And speak out against police violence during these protests.

Yes, I realize you aren’t a dictator. But you can suspend construction until a proper environmental review is done. You can have the corps of engineers actively make efforts to reroute it. You can be the nation’s moral compass one more time. You can stand up. You can speak. Reagan wasn’t a dictator, but he said “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,” and lo, the wall came down. If he could do that in Germany, you can do this right here in our own country.

I beg you. Speak up for peaceful protest, human rights, and the environment! And for God’s sake, do it before winter sets in. Let me look at you, one last time, with respect, as you take your final bow.


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