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