Not my President

donald-trumpMy head is spinning with how fast the lash and backlash about #notmypresident has come and gone (and frankly, about a lot of election issues). I had thoughts about it when it started right after the election, and I still have thoughts about it now, a long, long week later.

To be clear, Donald Trump is not my President. As George W. Bush was not, nor his father. But of course I respect the office of the Presidency, and he is the President of the United States (barring some fever dream about unfaithful electors or exit-vote proof of fraud). I do not think he is an illegitimate President. I do not think the military should disobey him as their Commander in Chief (but note, I do hope that, if he should order nuclear launches, the military will defy him, as I hope they would do under any President, no matter the circumstances).

I have no problem with this apparent paradox. It is the basis of nonviolent protest. I will not overthrow the government, but I will resist the policies I cannot accept. Or as written on a sign Ani DiFranco held up at a protest, “I’m done accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.”

And there are things I cannot accept about this administration’s floated plans. Religious registration and internment? Ceding the Asia-Pacific region to China? Turning a blind eye to Russia’s Soviet-style repression? Tripling down on trickle-down economic fantasies? Unchecked Federal spending on tax cuts for the ultra-rich? Illegal nepotism in the White House? And that’s not all of it. The list grows daily.

So yeah, he’s not my President. In fact, in an eerie parallel to Kansas (just one of many) Trump was elected by about one quarter of the electorate. So he’s likely not your President, either.

What can we do to change the things we cannot accept? How do we stand up to this President without attacking the Presidency? Protest, as we have in marches already, as we will in marches to come. As we have with phone calls, and as we will continue to do with phone calls. Get involved in your local and state elections, because trickle-up politics is a real thing.

But most importantly, of all these things, get out the vote. There is no action that will change our nation faster than involving some of the 100 million (or so) registered voters who did not vote, and getting them voting. This is the single thing you can do to make a difference in two years, and in four years.

In the face of despair

Monday morning I woke up feeling the most despondent I have yet since election night. Well, since after election night. That night was pretty bad.

But I’ve had a sort of energy since then, maybe a bit manic, that may have been propping me up. Yesterday, I woke up and read the news as I usually do, and it hit me. We are in for four years of unmitigated crap. I don’t like this feeling, so I’m setting about to figure out what I can do to, yes, make myself feel better. Here are the problems I see, in big wide generalizations that surely don’t address all of the important issues. And here is what I am doing about them, personally, locally, and nationally.

  • Trump’s campaign, whether incidentally, demonstrably, or even intentionally, has made it okay to be a misogynist, racist homophobe.

What am I doing about that? Personally, I’m wearing a safety pin, both to provide outward evidence that not everyone is an asshole, but also to remind myself to be more intentional in my interaction with folks who might feel targeted. I live in Kansas, and I don’t run into many marginalized people, which makes it all the more shameful that I have not reached out.

There are any number of good groups, locally, I am sure, to which I could give money, or energy. There’s a Social Justice committee at my church, and I am hoping they will help me identify places I can give my time. Our church does a great job with hunger issues and Islamic outreach. That’s a start.

Since the election, Tiffany and I have become monthly givers to the Southern Poverty Law Canter and Planned Parenthood. SPLC counters and protects those who are singled out and attacked in hate crimes. Planned Parenthood provides ongoing health services and support for women and poor families throughout their lives.

  •  Trump’s Presidency will roll back much of the progress we achieved under Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. The trending of the nation’s voting counties towards the right will lead to more challenges for real people’s lives. The economy will provide less for more. The influence of Trump’s white supremacist friends, his oligarch cronies, and the opportunistic extreme right will turn actual, real freedoms upside down.

In a nutshell, he has the full power of the Federal Government, for at least two years, probably four, to enact the agendas of his friends and supporters.

What can I do about this? I can stay active in politics. I work in state level politics in Kansas, where we actually had a retreat from conservative positions this election. We’ve seen the destructive results of unfettered extremist ideology here, and Kansans have chosen change direction. There’s much more work to be done, especially to make this a lasting change, and I will keep working at it.

We’ve also opened up our pocketbook on this issue, becoming first-time monthly supporters of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Natural Resources Defense Council. The ACLU works to protect civil liberties at the local level with an eye towards national influence. The NRDC protects the environment, among other ways, by fighting laws and regulations that affect our future on the planet.

  • In two and four years, the country will vote again. The chance that we could continue down this path is frightening, and must be prevented.

Personally, while I’m not cut out to actually run for office, I have skills and experience that would be useful to those who are. I will continue to be active in politics, in get out the vote efforts, in supporting candidates who will change this direction. I’m well versed in local issues (and the maxim that all politics is local is unquestionably true) and yet I will work to explore issues I don’t know much about.

I plan to learn more about how the Democratic Party works nationally, what can be done to support those local Republicans who are on the right side of the issues I care about (remember, I live in Kansas), and how I can encourage more people, especially women, to step up to public service. Is there anything more awesome than Tammy Duckworth’s smile?

I’m encouraged by the number of people who are looking to get involved, and the number of groups stepping up to offer them an avenue, from established groups to new ones.

This is how it starts. That’s how you defeat despair. You do something.

How I’m doing: 2016 election edition

It’s been a hell of a week, I won’t kid you. I spent the entire election season being pretty confident in Hillary Clinton’s victory. I guess, I fell into the trap of believing my experience of the world was shared by everyone. Clearly, I was wrong. And intellectually, it seems stupid of me now.

But I believed she’d win, she’d be the first female President, and that much of the progress we’d made under Obama would continue. Because, you know, the alternative was too unbelievable to imagine. But on election day, with no real reason, I began to get nervous. By evening, as the polls were closing, I couldn’t stop thinking about election night in 2000, when we were at a bar watching the returns, and someone looked up at the TV and asked, “Hey, where did Florida go?”

It seems a small mercy now that Tuesday night’s returns were consistently disappointing, with a long slow slide into a Trump victory, no false hope moments to raise us up before dashing us back onto the rocks. (The Nevada win was too late in the evening, at least for me.) But I felt numb, and kind of… blank. I was up until 1 am, just after John Podesta announced that Hillary would not be speaking. I went to bed knowing the outcome, but when I woke up at 4:30 am, I checked anyway.

I work in politics, albeit at the state level, and I live in Kansas, so I’m predisposed to crappy political news. I have spent the last few days reading and reading and reading, and thinking, and talking and thinking some more. I think this immersion in the reactions of others, like a sort of shock therapy, has replaced my mourning period. I’m not much of a mourner anyway (I’ll call it “wallowing” when I’m pissy), and I just didn’t want to dwell on it.

Now I find myself itching to do something. I’m working on understanding, and understanding will reveal the things that need to be done, I know. But until I get there, I need something tangible, some action, some difference to make. I feel, energized.

It may all come crashing down, I suppose. Some day I’ll break down in the middle of walking the dog, or at the bus stop waiting for my kid. But there’s just so much to unpack, I think I’ve got some time.

Don’t get me wrong, if I sound blasé. This outcome is horrifying to me, in every way. If I stop to consider the real consequences, to people, to our country, and to the world, I can feel the gibbering panic creeping in at the edges of my vision. But these last couple of days, I feel great. Like I have purpose, like I’m coiled and ready to spring. It’s weird. It’s interesting. And I intend to take full advantage of it.

Just shut that down

Today we heard that President Obama called up the Speaker of the House John Boehner and told him, and I quote from Brendan Buck, Boehner’s spokesman, “The president called the speaker again today to reiterate that he won’t negotiate on a government funding bill or debt limit increase.” Source: Roll Call

Hellz to the yes.

The pure unadulterated gall of the thirty or so Tea Party crazies who a) think their minority is in the majority, b) are directed and funded by a conservative oligarchy, and c) do not understand the most basic functions of government is only surpassed by the spineless wheeling contrivances of the moderate Republicans who refuse to stand up for their constituencies, their personal beliefs, and their intellectual understanding of what is actually happening in government today.

Afraid of the Koch Brothers money? Worried you’re going to get Tea Party Primaried? Well, it’ll happen anyway, so you’d best just grow a spine and stand up.

It appears that the Democratic leadership has found theirs.

Time to shut down the Tea Party. Time to shut down the narrative that whatever you believe is true because you believe it. Time to stand up to the bullies.

I am glad my President appears to be doing so.

NRA: Shoot the bad guys for double points!

There is so much to say about today’s NRA statement in relation to the Sandy Hook shooting. But let us start with this. The NRA blames the shooting on a culture of violence. They call out video games (specific ones, I guess you know who your friends are now!), media, the government. It’s actually a pretty comprehensive (if slight) overview of the complex problems of childhood and games and television and mental health and the economy. I’d say bravo for recognizing that the issue is shades of grey upon shades of grey. Except…

Ironically, their answer is to present the fix to society’s ills as a video game:

“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Wayne LaPierre, NRA Lobbyist

Bad guys. And good guys. Shoot the bad guys to save the children.

Well, I have some black and white rhetoric for you, too, Mr. LaPierre.

What is safer than a good guy in a school with a loaded firearm? No firearms. Not for good guys. Not for bad guys. Leave the firearms to the professionals who need them.

Hunters and their guns

So, my wife and I had a little conversation today about hunters and their guns in light of my previous post. We eat meat, and that meat has to be killed; hunters kill animals, and some of them eat that meat… she wondered if there was a problem with my argument in that context. I had to think about it for a moment before I wrapped my head around it.

But I’m good now.

I don’t have a moral problem with killing animals for meat. Never have, really. I have lots of problems with the way we raise and kill food animals, and try to buy my meat from local producers with small scale slaughtering operations. I don’t eat a lot of meat, for health reasons. But I’m fine with animals as meat, killed by humans.

In that sense, I don’t have a problem with individual hunters going out and killing animals for meat. And while I may have a personal distaste for hunters going out and killing animals for fun, that isn’t what my argument is about.

I have a problem with people owning guns.

As I have said before, professional gun owners need their guns to do their jobs. Fine. But recreational gun owners do not need their guns. Recreational hunters do not need their guns. Recreational hunters do not need to kill animals, and they certainly don’t need to do it with guns.

They may want to. But that isn’t a good enough reason to own a gun.

  • You want to be one with nature? Go camping.
  • You want to feel the “thrill of the hunt?” Grab a camera on your way out to the blind.
  • You want to feel like a man? Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Build a house. Read at the library.
  • You really need to kill? Do it with a bow, if you must. I’ll concede that piece of ground.

Your hunting rifle does not make you safer. It puts everyone around you in danger. What is safer than a responsible, trained hunter with a properly secured gun? Not having a gun.

And then there’s this:

“…the urge to kill lies within us all, especially as children. Without proper channelling of these instincts, children often grow into physically abusive and/or murderous adults. Can any of us honestly say that, as kids, we didn’t shoot birds with our slingshots and bb guns, or set homemade traps for other critters? I say that if you can say that, then you either never had an opportunity as a child, or you’re an exception to the rule of human nature.”

From Why do Hunters Hunt? by Russ Chastain

I’m sorry, you have an instinctual “urge to kill” that you need to channel properly? And you had it as a child? I don’t have an alternative for you, except to hope to God that you are the exception, not the rule.


Some of the reading I did for this:

You should not have a gun

I heard about the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, hours after it happened. I was flying East that day, and hadn’t checked in with the news. I don’t know anyone involved, but I have two boys in elementary school, one a six-year-old first grader. I have been sad, confused, and angry in turns, sometimes all at once.

It has been several days, and I think I’ve come to some… conclusions about what I think. Buckle up.

First off, mental illness is a terrible problem. Unlike with guns, it is an almost unfathomably complicated topic, of enormous importance, that I am completely unqualified to speak to. I do think that, as a country, we should be able to tackle both guns and mental illness. Both clearly need the attention.

But, on guns, I think this:

  • I believe that people should only have access to guns if their profession requires it. Yeah, I’m a little left of Liberal on this. But there is no reason, in a civilized society, for individuals to own guns for any sort of recreational purpose. None. Try your best to give me a reason. I like them doesn’t count. I grew up with guns doesn’t count. I need to defend myself (from other people with guns) doesn’t count. I’m part of a well-regulated militia and I need them to defend myself from a future totalitarian/socialist government. Really? Guns kill, and you can’t tell me that killing is an acceptable end goal. Punto final.

  • If you own a gun for recreational purposes, I will be civil to you (lest you, you know, shoot me), but I will not be your friend. My children will not play at your house. You had better tell me now, and get it over with. You can unfriend me and we can go our separate ways. My children and I will be safer.

Sure, a full-on firearms ban will never fly in this country. I understand the practical problems with my stance. A ban on assault weapons, or on high-capacity magazines, or on bullets, is likely to be much more successful. But I remain convinced that you do not need a gun. You should not have a gun. You are not safer with a gun. I am not safer if you have a gun.

Gun-related deaths in 2010 in the United States, from the CDC:

  • unintentional firearm deaths: 606
  • homicide firearm deaths: 11,078
  • suicide firearm deaths: 19,392
  • total firearm deaths: 31,672

Gun related non-suicide deaths per 100,000 people:

  • United States, 2008-2010: 3.97
  • France, 2009: 0.68 (17.1% of US total)
  • Italy, 2009: 0.47 (11.8%)
  • Australia, 2008: 0.26 (6.5%)
  • Germany, 2010: 0.16 (4%)
  • United Kingdom, 2011: 0.07 (1.7%)
  • Norway, 2010: 0.06 (1.5%)

Yes, in the US, you are 56 times more likely to die from a gun than in the UK. That does not include suicides.

Once they come out of hiding, the NRA will trot out all their usual tropes: guns don’t kill people, gun safety training is very important, everyone should have gun locks, or gun safes, or unloaded guns, or something that makes your gun safer.

You know what is more effective than gun safety training? Not having a gun. You know what is more effective than gun locks? Not having a gun. You know what is more effective than gun safes? Not having a gun.

You know what is safer than having a gun? Not having a gun.

The best elections links of the day (if you’re happy right now)

Here we go:

My thoughts on the election

So, the election is over. And I am pretty pleased with the results. I don’t have anything really grandiose to say about it, no proclamations or predictions, but throughout the night (I was up until 1 am local) and this morning I have had some random thoughts.

There may be profanity below. There will definitely be Liberal bias, so you have been warned.

  • During his concession speech, I realized that I have no animosity towards Mitt Romney. I think he is an ambitious man used to success, and he really, really, really wanted to be President. I think he really is a moderate, and I don’t think he believes half of what he “stood for” in this campaign. And while it disturbs me that he would be so glib with his values, I don’t hate him for it.
  • But Mitch McConnell can take a flying leap onto the nearest freeway. Here is what he said this morning, “Now it’s time for the president to propose solutions that actually have a chance of passing the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and a closely divided Senate, step up to the plate on the challenges of the moment, and deliver in a way that he did not in his first four years in office. To the extent he wants to move to the political center, which is where the work gets done in a divided government, we’ll be there to meet him half way.” (Source). That is such bullshit, coming from a Republican Party that deliberately, explicitly, and ultimately unsuccessfully stonewalled the President on everything he tried to do, even when he moved to the right of the political center. I call bullshit, Senator.
  • I confess that listening to Obama last night, I felt a little of the hopey, changey thing from four years ago. And it felt good.
  • I may have gloated a bit on Twitter last night. But seriously, the GOP spent the last four years actively denying Obama, trying to cast him as a failed President, and last night they got their ass handed back to them by the People. Fuck yeah.
  • Where has Boehner been? Isn’t he from Ohio? Rob Portman was popping up everywhere like an eager gopher, but not John Boehner. Curious.
  • Last night, only one person I voted for was actually elected, even all the way down to the local school board. Not the worst ballot experience I have had (that was 2004 in Omaha, Nebraska, when nobody I voted for was elected). I may be living in the wrong place.
  • The next generation has arrived. Gay marriage passed in two states (after losing 33 times in previous elections). Pot is (or will be) legal in Colorado. (Source). And the youth vote carried Obama again, just like it did four years ago (Source). So fasten your seat belts, Boomers, your young tattooed Latina barista is about to take the wheel.
  • Fox News, et al., was not only wrong, but dishonest with their viewers, all season long. This article in the Atlantic is (liberal and) very interesting. And they call us sheeple. (The Atlantic)
  • And finally, this. “I believe we can keep the promise of our founders, the idea that if you’re willing to work hard, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from or what you look like or where you love. It doesn’t matter whether you’re black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, able, disabled, gay or straight, you can make it here in America if you’re willing to try.” (Transcript source)
    See the video

I voted. Also, donuts.

Last night we got together with some like-minded neighbors to kvetch about the election. It was tons of fun, and we are eternally grateful to the host for tracking us down (she showed up at our door with an invitation, based on our yard signs). Then this morning we got up before the crack of dawn to bundle the kids into the car and go vote. We actually got there before the polling place opened (6 am!) and there was already a line of forty or fifty people. We voted, I dropped everyone off at home to get dressed, and I went and got celebratory donuts.

It has been a good day so far.

Please, exercise your right to vote.

Take your kids to show them how important it is.

And then get donuts.