The Path to Liberation

Part of my work is in voter behavior and I’ve been irritated by a language use/descriptive issue I’m seeing constantly in reporting on voter behavior in the last election. It led me down a data hole the other day when I should have been working, which was a great distraction, but in the grand scheme of the clusterfuck of this past election it is truly a minor point.

It also got me revisiting some of the first liberation philosophy and first feminist work I was exposed to in college: namely bell hooks, Sojurner Truth,  Ntozake Shange (it was, admittedly, very much a narrow exposure, though there were other essays whose authors I no longer remember). The white woman problem in American feminism and in the last election is very real, no matter how you describe it.

pleaseSo stop focusing on which white women, or on proving you’re not that white woman. Just keep not being that white woman (or, as the case may be, learn how to not be that white woman). Stop thinking about why you need to prove you’re not her and just don’t be her, by letting go of your sense of importance, by rejecting the focus on you. In the broadest possible sense, it’s the failure to attend to others or to prioritize needs greater than your own that has gotten us into this vile administration.

Just listen and focus on the greater issues: the percentages of African-Americans and immigrants and Native Americans who are disenfranchised. Whether through the gutting of the Voting Rights Act. Or through the New Jim Crow. Or through lies, intimidation and other bullshit.

And work to correct the greater issue of the failure of our municipalities to accommodate voting for all people (but particularly the poor and marginalized and those without paid time off or flexible work schedules or child care or the ability to travel to a polling place easily). Focus on how our election commissions fail to make ballots clear, to make all our votes count and equally. Fix how difficult it is for some people to even register.

But don’t forget, there is a white woman problem in American feminism and we have failed to recognize our debt to women of color, as Feminista Jones says here at the Women’s March. Start acknowledging that “the path to liberation has been mapped out by the brilliance of the black Woman’s mind.”

And Health Care for All

Everyone I know with asthma, arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, HPV, HIV, migraines, MS, PCOS, or, you know, any chronic illness or health condition ought to be calling their own senators, their representatives, Senate Majority Leader, Senate Minority Leader and Paul Ryan.

Before the Affordable Care Act (colloquially called Obamacare), insurance companies could refuse to sell you insurance if you had previously been diagnosed with an illness you might again need treatment for (HHS, WebMD, LATimes. Or those insurance companies could set a dollar amount beyond which–no matter how much you pay in premiums and no matter how diligent you were in paying your premiums–your insurance would simply stop paying for your medical care. (HHS, CBS)

In the middle of the night last night, under the direction of Mitch McConnell, the Senate passed a budget which includes the first steps to gut the ACA and they have done so with no plans to replace it. (They’ve had years to come up with something but they have not). Please note, this process is not the same as actually repealing the ACA; it affects all the provisions differently and it’s really complicated. But what is not complicated is that the ACA helps society and that the GOP has proposed no alternative.

The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that (yes this many) 20 million Americans had health insurance for the first time since the passage of the ACA. The Washington Post reports over 11 million persons have enrolled in the current enrollment period which ends January 31. This means people can have annual check-ups to stop problems early. They don’t have to go to emergency rooms for routine care and hospitals don’t have to write off the costs of the visits.

With repeal of the ACA, we return to allowing health insurance companies to refuse coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, allowing health insurance companies to drop children from their parents’ plans as soon as they turn 18 (whether they have other options or not), and allowing insurance companies to decide you’ve simply spent too much money on health care and your insurance won’t pay for things anymore.

The ACA is not perfect (I am among those who would prefer national health care to requiring health insurance for everyone–health insurance companies do not act in the interests of the insured people but in the interests of their business, after all). But repeal without a replacement plan is bad government.  These men (McConnell, Shumer, Ryan) need to hear that from you.

Find your representative

Find your senator

Weekly To-Do List

Note: the curator of this list makes it freely available and is–herself–sharing it on the internet under her own name with her own contact information. However, she asks people to share the lists personally with like-minded folks to cut down on the trolls and hatemail coming to her for making the list. So, because I’m sharing the list impersonally, I am not linking the source (which I’m sure you can find it with the search engine of your choice). I also won’t be sharing future lists.

I will be making all of these calls this week, but I’m not sure I’ll be following the list each week. This is a never-ending exhausting battle. I know I’ll need weeks off. I know I will need to ignore some calls to action. Sometimes (like last week, when it was 20 degrees outside), I’ll stand on a street corner to chant slogans against Mike Pence. Sometimes (like last month when I had to deal with being robbed), I won’t make it to the Planned Parenthood march and rally.  That’s okay.

smallphoneBurnout is inevitable with activism. You pace yourself. You miss actions and you don’t beat yourself up over it. You move on to the next thing. But you have to start and this is a good list. It also helps to plaster a big (even if totally fake) smile on your face when talking on the phone. I recommend a cocktail hat and dress as well–but that’s because I tend toward the frivolous and ridiculous in my private life.

Quoted Text Starts Here:

Make calls. It works. Based on the advice of my own senator’s staff, make these calls before hearings begin on Jan 10. This means right now, for each cabinet appointee you feel is unfit to serve, there are two specific actions to take:

1. Tell the Senate committee chair (Republican) you oppose the nominee.
2. Tell the Senate ranking member (Democrat) you oppose the nominee.
3. Optional: You can also call your own two senators to let them know. My Note: Definitely call your own senator as well. It’s just two more calls. I recommend calling their local office, rather than their DC office–the calls get tallied just the same, but in my experience, it’s easier to get through.

Note: Do leave a message if you get voicemail or call after hours.

The following seven people are the Senate Democrats’ official “oppose” list. I’ll be suggesting more in next week’s email. Appointments with an asterisk* were major donors to President Elect’s campaign and/or PACs.

1. Oppose Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson for ties to Exxon and Russia (source)

Committee: Foreign Relations Committee (more deets)

Call: Chair Bob Corker (R-TN) 202-224-3344
Call: Ranking member Ben Cardin ([D]-MD) 202-224-4524

Script: I am calling to oppose Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State. His ties to Russia and Exxon are a risk to our nation’s integrity and security.

2. Oppose Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions for racial bias and opposition to LGBT rights (source)

Committee: Senate Judiciary Committee (deets) hearings on Jan 10 and 11

Call: Chair Chuck Grassley 202-224-3744
Call: Ranking member Patrick Leahy 202-224-4242

Script: I am calling to oppose Jeff Sessions for Attorney General because I believe in the rights of gays and lesbians and people of color.

3. Oppose Health and Human Services Secretary nominee Tom Price for his opposition to the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”). (source)

Committee: Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (deets) Note: this is the same committee as for Betsy DeVos and Andy Puzder (below), so combine them if you wish.

Call: Chairman Lamar Alexander 202-224-4944
Call: Ranking member Patty Murray 202-224-2621

Script: I am calling to oppose Tom Price for Secretary of Health and Human services. I believe we should be expanding health care coverage for Americans, not making it more difficult to access and afford.

4. Oppose Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos* for her support of diverting tax dollars to private schools. (source)

Committee: Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (deets)

Call: Chairman Lamar Alexander 202-224-4944
Call: Ranking member Patty Murray 202-224-2621

Script: I am calling to oppose Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education. I believe my tax dollars should fund a robust and free primary education to all Americans. Her plans would leave public schools even more underfunded.

5. Oppose Labor Secretary nominee Andy Puzder* for his opposition to workers rights and fair wages (source) (implications)

Committee: Hearing on Jan 12 (deets) Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions

Call: Chairman Lamar Alexander 202-224-4944
Call: Ranking member Patty Murray 202-224-2621

Script: I am calling to oppose Andy Puzder for Labor Secretary. I value fair wages and worker’s rights, and Mr. Puzder seeks to weaken both.

6. Oppose Mick Mulvaney’s appointment to Director of Management and Budget Office. (source) (opinion)

Committee 1: Senate Budget Committee (deets)

Call: Chairman Mike Enzi 202-224-3424
Call: Ranking member Bernie Sanders 202-224-5141

Committee 2: Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs (deets)

Call: Chairman Ron Johnson 202-224-5323
Call: Incoming ranking member Claire McCaskill 202-224-6154

Script: I am calling to oppose Mick Mulvaney’s appointment. I believe in honoring our country’s financial obligations and supporting affordable healthcare.

7. Oppose Treasury Secretary nominee Steven Mnuchin for his history of predatory business practices (source)

Committee: Senate Finance Committee (deets)

Call: Chairman Orrin Hatch 202-224-5251
Call: Ranking member Ron Wyden 202-224-5244

Script: I am calling to oppose Steven Mnuchin (m’NOO-chin) for Treasury Secretary. I believe someone in this role needs to have a history of solid ethics and integrity.

Giving Tuesday

giving_tuesday_logostacked1It’s Giving Tuesday.

2016 has been a long, hard, strange year. It’s been stressful and very disheartening for those of us who work for social reform agencies because so many people seem angry or resistant to inevitable changes in culture or community priorities. We’re losing ground, even when we move forward.

The stress has gotten to a lot of us.

On the other hand, when I start to feel hopeless, I remember I have had nearly daily reminders of generous and civic-minded my friends are. Aside from the ones who work at nonprofits, they volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House every other month, they lead Girl Scout troups, put in time at legal aid agencies, give volunteer hours at their neighborhood public schools (let that one sink in there, why don’t you?) local cultural institutions and the birthday party project. One lovely woman I know donated $1 for every “Happy Birthday” she got on social media, a nontrivial number. I am humbled by their generosity because I don’t match it (though I’m getting better) and because I’m a little amazed to know such wonderful people.

It’s Giving Tuesday; I hope you’ll join me in affirming the generous people you know by supporting a charitable organization near and dear to one of them. Thank them for putting in their time at food banks, hotlines, park clean ups. And join them, next time, won’t you?

Some NPOs and charities supported by me and my friends, in no particular order:

These are My Thoughts, as Expressed by Others

shriver berg onbeing

The Shriver Peace Institute, a person I don’t know on Facebook, a theologian quoted at On Being.

I live in a mostly white, mostly college-educated, mostly professional neighborhood where the median income is $20k higher than the city’s median income as a whole. I have lived in this 0.249 square mile for at least 10 years now. Wednesday, November 9, 2016, I witnessed  the first overt racist harassment I have seen in my neighborhood, by a man, shouting racists things at three African-American clerks in my corner drug store in the name of the president-elect. I feel ill-equipped to intervene, unsure how to turn the tide, frightened that more people will be threatened, that others will be physically harmed.

I’m trying. I will do what I can. This is not normal.

Every 109 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted.

There is a lot of credible information showing that the rate of sexual assault in the United States is appallingly high. 1 in 5 women is raped in her lifetime and in the 12 months prior to the CDC’s 2012 comprehensive report on sexual violence, 1 in 20 women reported experiencing some form of sexual assault in the 12 months prior to the survey alone. Close to 90% of those rapes and assaults are committed by their partners, their family members, their friends and acquaintances.

We know this is true. I know this is true. The women who are my friends know this is true.

Where do we meet these men who rape us? Who assault us? We meet them at our friends’ houses. At our friends’ gigs. We meet them through our friends, our co-workers, our families.

You introduce them to us. Maybe you don’t know that you’re introducing us to someone who believes he has the right to touch us without our permission.The right to stick his tongue in our mouths when we’ve said no, or turned away, or tried to keep our jaws closed tight. The right to have sex with us–to rape us–when we have not said “yes”.

I hope you don’t.

But if you’ve heard that person defend a rapist by saying that women are teases, or that women lie about assault, or that his life will be ruined by the accusation, then you know that this is not a safe person for your friends to be alone with.

If you’ve heard that person speak admiringly about PUA tactics or whine about the Friend Zone, you should be suspicious that this is not a safe person for your friends to be alone with.

If you’ve heard this person defend misogyny or sexism with some version of “that’s guy talk” or “boys will be boys”, you should not trust this person to be respectful and safe for your friends to be alone with.

This is rape culture. It normalizes the idea that women are tools of male satisfaction. When these ideas are unchallenged, the men expressing them believe that it’s normal and okay to assault women. And then they will assault your friends–my friends, me–with the trust that you think it’s normal to behave that way, and so it is okay for them to behave that way.

Work to make the world safe for your women friends, your sisters, your daughters by making sure that your sons recognize and reject rape culture. Call out that friend who thinks women lie about rape to protect their reputations, to hide an embarrassing liaison, to ruin some guy’s life. Don’t laugh at their grotesque jokes about assault.

Don’t teach your children that a man can brag about grabbing women in a sexual manner without their consent or can claim to kiss them whether they want it or not and be a viable presidential candidate.