This Little Group

The Free Thinkers and Peace Builders group I started with a friend has grown quickly. We have 85 members and have only been around 3 months! I thought having this many members would mean good turnouts for the meets I create, with lots of good exchange of ideas.

Alas, I have been disappointed. I know, people join online groups all the time and never attend a single meet. I’ve done that. You get busy and can’t make yoga. Or didn’t write anything to present to the writers group on Monday. I had thought this group was made up of slightly more determined individuals. If we want to make change, talking to each other is key! If we are not determined, why are we bothering?

If you are not committed to making change, how can change ever come? Do people expect things to change simply because they want them to? I know we have leaders out there. Those determined to expose Trump for the racist bumpkin he is. People trying to change the US justice system. They don’t seem to get the media coverage they deserve. Those in power do not really want anything to change. They own the media. All of it, and no one seems to care. Except me.

CNN and the thousands of “independent” news outlets are too busy spending two weeks discussing a hurricane. For 24 hours a day, every day.  For two weeks! And if there is no storm or crisis they still only show you the same 5 stories all day long. It would appear that today’s media does not realize there are more than one story a day.  CNN doesn’t seem to realize what a parody of news it has become. In the US we have CNN or Fox. That explains a lot doesn’t it?

Today’s Newsroom Meeting:

“Ok boys, go out and get those stories.” The “reporters” all look at each other. “What’s the boss mean, “go out”? I pick up all my stories off of Facebook and other social media. I don’t have to “go out” anywhere and talk to people live and in person. I’ve got important shit to do.” So the “reporters” set their interns the task of bringing stories to them off the internet. There are only five reporters, and five interns, therefore, we get only five stories. Not a one with verifiable sources. Are we just lazy? Is it just because my family loves to watch CNN day and night and I get incensed that the story, and clips and interviews that I saw at 9AM are the exact same I see at 9PM.

Today I feel disappointed. I know what I’m trying to do isn’t easy and not everyone can devote the same amount of time and effort. But I can’t do this alone! Have those who have joined my group done so for no apparent reason? Do they care about what I am trying here? My friend who started this group with me has since abandoned the cause. I feel ready to do the same. My WP site costs me money. My Meetup page costs me money. Not much but it’s money that I would otherwise spend on useful things like food. I’d like to think what little I pay out would pay off in a good solid group of people.

Today I am disappointed in my fellows. I sent a notice for a meeting. The topic doesn’t really matter as long as we discuss the important stuff. But only ONE person showed up for the last meet and only ONE has signed on to attend this one. I don’t know if I should bother. You can’t hitch your star to someone else’s wagon.

Same question I ponder daily: Should I give up or keep going?

Racism & White Privilege

Just read this terrific article written by Lori Lakin Hutcherson, a black woman, responding to a query from a white friend on White Privilege.  (Lori Lakin Hutcherson is a Los Angeles native, Harvard graduate, film and television writer/producer, and founder/editor-in-chief of the award-winning website Good Black News. She is also a wife, mother, vegetarian, crossword puzzle enthusiast, nerd, and avid music lover.) Though the article is a year old, it certainly hasn’t lost it’s importance.

Yesterday I was tagged in a post by an old high school friend, asking me and a few others a very public, direct question about white privilege and racism. I feel compelled not only to publish his query but also my response to it, as it may be a helpful discourse for more than just a handful of folks on Facebook.

Here’s his post:

“To all of my Black or mixed race FB friends, I must profess a blissful ignorance of this ‘White Privilege‘ of which I’m apparently guilty of possessing. By not being able to fully put myself in the shoes of someone from a background/race/religion/gender/nationality/body type that differs from my own makes me part of the problem, according to what I’m now hearing.

“Despite my treating everyone with respect and humor my entire life (as far as I know), I’m somehow complicit in the misfortune of others. I’m not saying I’m colorblind, but whatever racism/sexism/other -ism my life experience has instilled in me stays within me, and is not manifested in the way I treat others (which is not the case with far too many, I know).

“So that I may be enlightened, can you please share with me some examples of institutional racism that have made an indelible mark upon you? If I am to understand this, I need people I know personally to show me how I’m missing what’s going on. Personal examples only. I’m not trying to be insensitive, I only want to understand (but not from the media). I apologize if this comes off as crass or offends anyone.”

Here’s my response:

Hi, Jason. First off, I hope you don’t mind that I’ve quoted your post and made it part of mine. I think the heart of what you’ve asked of your friends of color is extremely important, and I think my response needs much more space than as a reply on your feed. I truly thank you for wanting to understand what you are having a hard time understanding.

Coincidentally, over the last few days I have been thinking about sharing some of the incidents of prejudice/racism I’ve experienced in my lifetime – in fact, I just spoke with my sister Lesa about how to best do this yesterday – because I realized many of my friends (especially the white ones) have no idea what I’ve experienced/dealt with unless they were present (and aware) when it happened.

There are two reasons for this :

1) Because not only as a human being do I suppress the painful and uncomfortable in an effort to make it go away, I was also taught within my community (I was raised in the ‘70s and ‘80s – it’s shifted somewhat now) and by society at large not to make a fuss, speak out, or rock the boat. To just “deal with it,” lest more trouble follow (which sadly, it often does).

2) Fear of being questioned or dismissed with “Are you sure that’s what you heard?” or “Are you sure that’s what they meant?” and being angered and upset all over again by well-meaning-but-hurtful and essentially unsupportive responses.

Please go here to read the complete article.

The author then cites only a few examples of the racism that she has experienced in her life. I think most people of the white persuasion wouldn’t see anything wrong with the actions she describes. I hope some people are dismayed when they recognize themselves.

In an odd comparison I want to relate three of my own early experiences with racism as a white woman.

I lived in a small town, which during the 50s-60s was essentially an All-White community. You won’t find this information anywhere in the history pages of Menomonee Falls, WI , but I recall my mom telling me the town had at one time a policy not to sell to Blacks.  I never saw a living breathing black person until about age 10-12. I didn’t go to school with anyone other than white kids. We didn’t even have many Jewish people living in town.

Fast food restaurants were new in the 60s-70s when I grew up, and we were so excited when the McDonald’s moved in, but it was at the other end of town, so it was not a frequent treat. But when Kentucky Fried Chicken went in on the corner of Main Street, now that was close by. My dad brought me with him to get a bucket of chick to take home. Standing in front of me was a large, very dark man. I remember being somehow stunned. I guess it was a similar reaction to Native tribes coming in contact with their first White men.  I find it very sad that this was my first glimpse into the Black community.

A second even more powerful incident struck me when I was at Girl Scout Camp one summer about age 12. There were girls from all over Wisconsin at this camp and I met and made my first Black friend. I don’t recall her name now, but I remember the look on her face.

We each washed our own dishes at a communal wash bucket as big as a horse trough. I was next in line to wash my dishes, and my Black friend was behind me. I stepped from the “sink” and she stepped up. Behind her I hear someone curse and complain that they hoped the water was still clean enough for her dishes after “black hands” had been in it. I was stunned. I’d never heard anything like that before in my life.  But my friend. The crushed look and suppressed tears told me a lot. I called the racist girl something, and took my friend back to our tent.

Then there was the time my dad took up a petition to prevent a home in our neighborhood from being sold to a Black family. I recall my mother being furious with my father about it. I’m not sure if his efforts were successful, but no Black family moved into that house.

This is what White Privilege looks like to me. But think about it. Slavery may have been outlawed, but most Whites still believed the other colors of people were less civilized and advanced. Blacks weren’t smart enough to do the job of clerk, so let them sweep the floor. When the Reconstruction of the South occurred, it only reconstructed the White south. Very little, if anything was done to help freed slaves figure out what they were supposed to do, now that they were turned out from the only homes they knew. Many were ignorant; unable to read and write. Probably many couldn’t count or add. It was like the North freed a bunch of children and said, “Ok, you go off and make a life for yourself.” “You need help?, I got problems of my own “boy.””  Finding themselves unemployed, it was pretty hard to find a place of their own. The Black experience (at least to my White eyes) has never been easy. I can’t imagine the difficulties they faced. I’m sure there must be books written about that, but I haven’t read one.

Sorry, this was kind of long, but I hope some of you learned something about racism and privilege in the US. There are many times I feel ashamed to be White, although my family didn’t arrive in this country until after the Civil War. White Privilege will continue until we can share these stories and enlighten the ignorant.  We’ve got to undo 200 years of racism. It’s going to take a while.

Meanwhile, to all the people of color: I’m sorry. I’m sorry for the arrogance of White Men. I apologize if I have ever seemed disrespectful to anyone. If I ever do say or do something racist, I do hope you will point it out to me. I don’t want to make the same mistake with someone else.

Racism in America

Do we need to write something under Qualifications for President to specify that candidates should have deep convictions of right and wrong, show a level of morality a step above the rest of us. A candidate must be a person of integrity, honesty, humanity, and humility. In case you hadn’t realized 45 has none of those qualifications. He proved this in wide screen technicolor today.

I have been appalled by Trump, 45, whatever you might want to call him. My preference is Hesnotmypresident Trump. With all the talk about White Privilege, nothing shows it more strongly than our #45. Everything he is and stands for exposes White Privilege at it’s worst. This is the mongrel my country elected. Morals be damned. Both 45’s scripted and impromptu responses to the violence and death in Charlottesville last weekend are as appalling as anything he has said to date. But the fact he cannot and will not denounce racist groups is unconscionable.

I have been trying not to bash Trump for things he’s said and done and work on the issues behind his disagreeable actions. The gloves are off on this. For this he deserves the highest level of denunciation and disgust. He has shamed America and debased the Presidency in his actions since the campaign. This is a new level of shame, combined with a gut wrenching fear.

A week ago I was afraid of an imminent nuclear holocaust. Thank goodness Kim Jong Un has decided to continue to watch the antics of our crazy, crazed and definitely deranged president.  Whew! At least we’ve put that on the back burner and free us up to confront violence and destruction closer to home. Incidents like this are not at all helpful in bridging the gap between White Privilege and Brown Suppression. But what is the answer?

charlottesville
Charlottesville 2017

We all know what happened in Charlottesville, the dozens of people seriously injured and one killed by one guy using the latest weapon of mass murder; driving through a crowd. I understand the young man driving that car was confused at best, uncaring possibly, and likely was very lonely. The perfect candidate to be lured into believing the garbage hate groups like to spout. Playing on a person’s ignorance and fear. These are the exact tactics used by other hate groups, like ISIS, Al Queda, NRA, IRA. They find the disenchanted, disenfranchised, lonely (mostly) young white men and feed their fears.

The young woman he killed was a respected professional with a family. Nothing about her was violent.  For our president to diminish her life and death by claiming both sides had a part in the violence is at a minimum ridiculous.  The only part she had in the violence was being a victim of it.

The violence this past weekend didn’t end there.  The leader of the KKK publicly stated he was “glad” of Heather Heyer’s death.

“I’m sorta glad that them people got hit and I’m glad that girl died,” Justin Moore “a Grand Dragon” in a KKK organization, told WBTV.

The Neo-Nazis want to have a visible presence at the funeral for Ms. Heyer.

Andrew Auernheimer, known by the online pseudonym ‘weev’, said: “What’s the location of the fat skank’s funeral … get on it, e-sleuths. I’d do it myself but slammed with current logistical issues. I want to get people on the ground there.”

And my president can’t denounce these losers? I have never known this level of disgust.

The ACA vs ACHA

Health insurers have taken advantage of the populace and raised their rates as soon as the ACA passed. That’s the biggest problem with healthcare in the US: insurance companies. Greedy insurance companies. Worried only about the bottom line and how much their investors will profit. Denying people medical care that would save them, things like heart and liver transplants, experimental treatments, and the elderly in understaffed, underfunded nursing homes. Sending home the 70 year old woman who just had a massive stroke. She gets 6 weeks of rehab same as everyone else. It’s unfortunate that she hasn’t improved. She’s had her six weeks. She’s out. Same for the mentally ill or addicts. The insurance company decides whether or not you are well enough to be discharged, regardless of your doctors’ recommendations. Who gave insurers this kind of power?

The GOP and insurers do not care a whit for the people they supposedly work for. Our millionaire senators don’t care if I receive life-saving treatment or not. If it costs too much for the insurance company, I won’t get it, unless I can pay for it myself. According to the GOP that is how America works; you have a choice to pay for your treatment without the benefit of insurance funds. If you decide you cannot afford the treatment, it is your right not to take the treatment. It is your right to decide if the premium too expensive. I’ve read that reps of the GOP have actually said it will be your choice to pay for health insurance or rent, car insurance, credit card bills, food. A choice. Yeah, a choice between the frying pan and the fire.

Our elected officials have the best care, with no cost to themselves. What do they care about the rest of the US. They have insurance and it’s paid for by our government! Yet they do not want the blind lady to get her Medicaid.

Let the people become millionaires and the problem will disappear. Oh, people need a hand up to become millionaires? You mean they are not smart enough? Because, you see, they live in a poor area, where the schools have no books, no wipe boards, no art, no sports, no music. When the student test scores were poor, government funds have been withheld. Does that make complete non-sense? Instead of supplying the most underperforming schools with more funds, they received less. A punishment for the students’ poor test scores. Those scores have nothing to do with the lack of educational material. Or so it would seem.

They should go to college, says the GOP. Like they did. On their daddy’s dime. People born into money (even middle class money) have no idea what it is like to live in the Projects. Because of no funding most students do not have enough of a basic education to even attempt college. If they somehow managed to graduate high school, college just costs too much. They then have a choice, go deep into debt, paying usury interest rates, for the education they know will help them move up in the world. With a business degree in hand they go looking for that job, that career that will line their pockets with gold. What’s that? There are no jobs in the area where they can use that degree. So they take a job at movie theaters, coffee houses, and fast food places.

Yet, our government representatives somehow deserve special treatment. Like they are better than the rest of us. They do only one thing, but they do it brilliantly: helping the poor stay poor and the sick get sicker. That is how it works. Pay someone a low wage, he lives in a bad neighborhood, crowded and dirty. People are prone to be sick. He has many doctor visits, lots of expensive medicine, he can’t afford, so he stays sick. The employee misses many days due to illness and gets fired. He collects unemployment, applies for food stamps and Welfare, while he searches for another job.  Now he is on the government’s dime. Completely. If he had only lived in a clean neighborhood he’d still be working, probably even get a raise. He might even make enough repairs to his old house. You see how it works?

As long as the senator is completely, 100% covered for the $7,000 worth of dental work he needs, getting the right amount of tail on the side, winning over a plump lobbyist. Meanwhile, poor students must learn to live in bad neighborhoods. Sleeping on a mattress on the floor of a 350 square foot studio that had been so dirty for so long there was no getting it clean again. A place destined for Repurposing and Beautification, as the entire neighborhood undergoes massive evictions, and trendy shops and restaurants replace your cheap, dingy, little apartment close to work. And don’t forget the bad teeth, caused by poor nutrition and lack of affordable dental care.

The way I see it, the only way to fix the ACA and get the GOP working on something else, is give every American the same insurance as the senators. Better yet, give the senators the same insurance they want every American to accept.

 

On The Realities of Being Poor

I’ve been reading lately:

  • The Heritage Foundation Backgrounder, 19 March 2014 – “Do Federal Social Programs Work?”, by David B. Mulhausen, PhD
  • The Heritage Foundation Backgrounder, 15 September 2015 – “Poverty and the Social Welfare State in the United States and Other Nations,” by Robert Rector
  • Center for American Progress – “The Facts About Americans Who Receive Public Benefits,” by Joy Moses, December 2011.
  • UC Davis Poverty Research Center -“How To Reduce Poverty in the United States”

Poverty, as we all know, is a deep seated problem with no easy answers. The four articles noted above contradict each other on several issues, so it is not surprising that solving the problem is so difficult.

The March 2014 Backgrounder, for example states, “The American Public should have nothing to fear from the elimination of ineffective programs. Now is the time for deep budget cuts in federal social programs.” Some of the programs it suggests terminating include Head Start, which after detailed evaluation found that the program failed to improve the lives of the children, any more than the children who did not attend.  I’d have to agree, the Head Start program may have outlived its usefulness now that nearly all children attend a pre-school for at least a year before starting kindergarten. So, how much is actually spent on Head Start? According to one source: $7 billion.

Other programs the March 2014 article suggests are ineffective are:

  • Food Stamps (SNAP), which “failed to affect earnings and employment outcomes.” Sorry, what? This makes no sense. Were food stamps meant to increase the recipients earnings or employment? Yeah, I didn’t think so. It is a program to ensure better health through nutrition. So I deny that this is a failed or ineffective program based on the faulty testing criteria.
  • Moving to Opportunity (Section 8 housing) was also found to have failed “to produce statistically meaningful results” for the recipients.  This article does not explain the criteria used, but you can go here for more info. I suggest that part of the failure of this program is due to lack of participation of landlords. Applications for the program have actually been suspended for the past 10+ years (at least in Los Angeles), due to the long waiting list and short list of landlords, as well as the limited range; housing is not even offered in most of the surrounding cities. There must be some incentive provided to landlords to participate in the program, and currently there does not appear to be any.
  • The Job Corps program studies show that participants worked fewer hours and received less pay than the control group. I posit this is due to the dearth of opportunities in areas served; i.e., learn all the skills you want, if there is only a job at McDonalds, you will not make more money.  The program isn’t failing, we are. Yes, the program is ineffective, because it doesn’t solve the problem of job availability. Again, we need to provide incentive for businesses to locate in poor communities. Not an easy fix, so I guess it’s easier to just say it doesn’t work and trash it, than say it doesn’t work because it is flawed but could be improved.

The September 2015 Backgrounder discusses the living standards of those people considered poor. The US census (from which most financial data is taken) does not provide an indicator of those who may be using federal aid.  I should think that might skew the numbers, no? One of the criteria for determining poverty (other than income) include whether or not they have air conditioning. Most modern buildings have central heating and cooling.  While I might use my power for heating, I’m less likely to use the A/C because of the cost. So, just because A/C is available to me doesn’t mean I use it. And who says A/C is a luxury? Sure in 1945 it was, but today?

Nearly 75% of those defined as poor have at least one car. Again, who decided that a car was still considered a luxury item. The survey asks “do you have a vehicle.” It does not ask for the age or condition of it.  Two-thirds of the poor have a computer with internet access. Again, not really a luxury item either, now that so much of our lives need that access, especially when it comes to education. They have cable/satellite playing on a wide screen modern TV.  TV is again, not a luxury item. What the survey does not ask is “did you buy the TV or gaming system?” It might be a gift from a friend or relative. All I’m saying is that statistics don’t tell much of the story. Data can be skewed. Information omitted.bad wires

In the end, I know not all our systems work, and some should be dismantled, but others could be streamlined and improved. With each change we make to a system, it is only a patch. Now imagine that as an electrical system? Patch upon patch, always adding a new wire. I’d say it’s a reasonable assumption that this is why our government has become too large, too cumbersome, and too expensive.

And we never really fix the problem because of partisanship. Neither side will let the other side get exactly what they want. When did Party become more important than the People? (Much more on that later.)

Tired of the Hate-filled Rhetoric

I have grown weary of the current rhetoric: me good, them bad.  I’m disgusted with the media as a whole, and after reading this article in Politico, I’m doubly upset.  I think most of us know that the media does not necessarily represent the Average American.  To the contrary, media outlets cater to a particular audience, and that audience thinks like the media.  So, for example, the New Yorker, obviously, has an East Coast philosophy that does not translate well to the West Coast sensibilities.  The Times are each biased by location, and those locations are all large cities (Dallas, Houston, Chicago, Miami, etc.). The rest of the country, apparently, does not really matter.

Some may think that that is just fine. “I live on the West/East Coast, so I’m content,” seems to be the feeling.  The media bubble mentioned in the above article makes complete sense when taken in context with the demise of actual paper news, loss of newspapers. It’s a money game (always follow the money).  Paper publishing costs a lot; paper, ink, printing, journalists, distribution.  The advent of the internet certainly changed all that. Hundreds of thousands of jobs were lost, and with that, coverage of more localized news has nearly vanished.

What does that mean? It means the media is biased to their location and staff, not the people they purport to represent.  We end up with the nonsense of rhetoric, and by virtue of 24 hour news channels, we get sucked up into believing it.  And what is rhetoric? By definition it is: “language designed to have a persuasive or impressive effect on its audience, but often regarded as lacking in sincerity or meaningful content.”   Lack of meaningful content.

We need to start thinking for ourselves, and not let the media play to our fears and biases. Bias/prejudice mean a strong inclination of the mind or a preconceived opinion about something or someone. A bias may be in favor of or against an idea or person or people. Prejudice implies preformed judgment even more unreasonable than bias, and usually implies an unfavorable opinion: prejudice against people of another religion or race. 

Everyone has bias in some form or degree.  It’s only human to base one’s beliefs and morals on one’s own personal experience. However, this leads to prejudice against ideas outside of our personal experience, reality and world. Prejudice that is not easy to shake. Only way to remedy this is to open one’s mind to the infinite possible points of view. The media helped us do that once upon a time. Now it is up to each individual to learn how to open their minds to ideas they might normally be opposed to.  Wouldn’t you like it if the Republicans and Democrats cared more for the country than party?  Personally, I see no reason to have political parties.  I’m a registered Independent for the last 25 years or so, but I still have preconceived ideas and a deep dislike to changing my mind. I also have a deep desire (now) to open my mind more, and possibly even change it.

This is where Free Thinking and/or Critical Thinking comes in.  It helps to take the emotion out of the equation, which where we all go wrong. It’s our emotions that get in the way of critical thinking. Think like a scientist; take a theory and set about to disprove it.

I don’t think using critical thinking will make me change my mind about the fact that Trump doesn’t belong in the White House, but it may help me understand how he came into power, and why the media did not accurately report on what All Americans wanted, just what the Average American wanted.  Not the same thing at all. The average American makes $65,000. I make half that with my and my husband’s income combined. Nothing average here.

So. No more rhetoric for me or from me (I may slip now and then, but I am trying).  Ted Nugent promised that he would no longer engage in such talk. If he can, certainly I can. It hasn’t been a month yet, and since his announcement came only after a Republican senator was shot and nearly killed, I’m having trouble buying it. I checked his FB page and website and don’t see anything hurtful or hateful. But neither do I see his denunciation of hateful rhetoric.  I’d never gone to those sites before so it may be he never posted the rhetoric there. For now I’ll give him benefit of the doubt. I want you to believe the same of me.

I know advice is worth it’s price, but my advice? Stop talking only with the people who already agree with you. Stop using only media sources that favor your preconceived ideas. Expand your media horizons and you may find out some very surprising things. What I’m trying to say is, try to keep an open mind and think for yourself–don’t let the media do it for you.

The Resistance

I have been working with resistance groups for only a few months.  I have learned so much in that short time, met some wonderful, amazing people, and found a sense of purpose.

The drag of this is it looks like the Resistance may not be needed before long, what with Trump being investigated for Obstruction of Justice.  Impeachment papers are being filed, and the White House executives are lawyering up.  I can see this going pretty deep into Trump’s staff: Pence, Bannon, Kuschner, Ivanka, and all the rest of the degenerates and unqualified bozos.  And I celebrate to see this happening.

Even if this all goes down, the Resistance will need to work to repair the damage done in these short six months of Trump’s tyranny.  To that end, it is going to take a lot of work to get people to vote.  Time for the Independents to grow in number and create a strong third party.  We need to ensure that it will be impossible in the future that no single party gains control of the House, Senate and Presidency at one time.  We need to eliminate Gerrymandering, and that will not be easy with a Republican Congress.  We need to eliminate Lobbyists. They’re just glorified beggars, aren’t they?  Disgusting humans.

To make that happen, however, we need to inform people of the importance of voting and when voting, how to do so.  We need to teach our children and immigrants the importance of voting for all elected positions.  Including the School Board.  If more people actually became aware of what their school boards are doing, perhaps we can save education from the greasy talons of Betsy DeVos.

We are the people, remember?  We are the people who create this country and hold onto the values on which it was founded.  That means taking back control of our government at all levels. That means education.  It means hard work.  It needs your time and effort. This is a hard thing to do, for people have families, work (sometimes at two or more jobs).  People have cars that break down.  They get ill, lose jobs, lose insurance, and in the end, lose hope.  It would be good for people to have hope again.

I hope this blog will help educate people on how the government works, where your tax money goes, and the danger of Gerrymandering.  Here is an excellent explanation of Gerrymandering and why it is dangerous.  I didn’t know how bad this was until recently. Gerrymandering lines should be erased–permanently–if we don’t want a single party system.