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Understanding the Difference between Patriotism and Nationalism

On the last two Saturdays in June, several hundred people gathered at Sherman Green in Fairfield to protest the immoral immigration policy of the Trump administration that has resulted in the separation of thousands of children from their parents.

As the rally was ending the Saturday before July 4th, a couple in a convertible drove by. A woman held a large American flag, shouting “America First!”, while the driver expressed his desire to deport those assembled. I wondered how it made them feel to shout at us. Were they proud? Did they feel that it was their patriotic duty to shout at us?

On September 22, 1776, Connecticut state hero Nathan Hale was executed by the British after being caught spying for General Washington. A schoolteacher by trade, Hale was, by all accounts, a particularly lousy spy and his Revolutionary War efforts lasted barely a week. But he volunteered for a dangerous duty that, at the time, was considered unseemly for a gentleman like Hale. Hale’s act of patriotism was borne out of, what George Orwell describes in his book Notes on Nationalism as “devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world.”

Last Wednesday, Americans everywhere celebrated Independence Day with displays of “patriotic” fervor. American flags came out of storage, along with American-themed clothing.  Several tons of hot dogs and hamburgers were consumed, washed down with cans of America (formerly Budweiser) beer, and several tons of fireworks were displayed.  Our displays of patriotism today differ substantially from Hale’s example.

There’s nothing wrong with celebrating our independence with barbecue and fireworks. But, the meaning behind that celebration has been perverted in a dangerous way. What we see today, and what we experienced from the couple in the convertible, was nationalism, not patriotism. Although the terms patriotism and nationalism are often used interchangeably, they couldn’t be more dissimilar.

The patriotism of Nathan Hale and others who fought in the Revolutionary War came from a devotion to the principles of freedom from oppression and the right to self-determination that the Declaration of Independence sought to vindicate. Patriotism is about ideals and principles. By contrast, as Orwell points out, nationalism “is inseparable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality.”

Orwell writes that nationalism is “the habit of identifying oneself with a single nation or other unit, placing it beyond good and evil and recognizing no other duty than that of advancing its interests.” This style nationalist fervor led  neo-conservatives like Ann Coulter and Mark Alexander during the administration of George W. Bush to argue that opponents of the Iraq war were traitors. Creating a construct of patriotism that places the government and its actions beyond challenge grants a license to the couple in the convertible and others to act rudely and dismissively towards other Americans.

It’s no accident that we celebrate our nation on July 4, the date of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. After all, we could celebrate September 17, when the U.S. Constitution was signed. We could also celebrate April 30, the day that George Washington took office as our first President. But we don’t do that because, as Steve Vladek writes,  “our national ethos is more than just the sum of our legal system.”

We often hear about the “rule of law” and the sacredness of the U.S. Constitution. But, to some degree, that devotion to the Constitution has perverted the original principles upon which the nation was founded. Justice John Marshall, writing for the majority McCullogh v. Maryland, argued that the government created through the Constitution “is, emphatically, and truly, a government of the people. In form and in substance it emanates from them. It’s powers are granted by them…and are to be exercised directly on them, and for their benefit.” We should keep this in mind as we prepare for the nomination of a new Supreme Court Justice. We should understand how the concept of originalism or strict construction are a means to elevate the Constitution over the will of its citizens.

True patriotism recognizes that our ideals, our values, our principles are more important than our leaders or our political structures — including the Constitution. The true patriot fights for those unalienable rights, by recognizing that all within our borders should be treated fairly, humanely, and compassionately. The true patriot recognizes that institutions of government are created as a means to secure the unalienable rights the Declaration sought to vindicate, not as a straight-jacket to progress.

That’s not to say that America is perfect. It isn’t by any means. But it does mean that we, as a nation, all have a responsibility to work toward the “more perfect Union” sought by the U.S. Mark Twain said that “Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.” And we need look no further than the Declaration of Independence to understand how our founders would react to a Trump presidency: “A prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be a ruler of a free people.”

We agree.

Purple State Blues

Concerns of People in Purple Colorado

On Sunday afternoon in Oak Park, Arvada, CO, on July 7th, I met up with terrific folks for a BBQ. It was a social to raise funds for RAICES, a group helping reconnect children who’d been separated from their parents at the border after Trump’s Zero Tolerance policy. Many people, of all parties, are horrified that children were forcibly removed from parents and placed in cages and prisons. Perhaps it’s setting off at last a moral outrage against cruel and discriminatory policies of the current administration.

Arvadans for Progressive Action, Indivisible Allies

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Arvadans for Progressive Action

I spoke with Rachel and Conor and Robin and Robin’s 84 year old ACLU-member mother and her friend, who’d given up on the Republican party since Trump. Elders fear losing social security and Medicare.While children played with spoke about our personal concerns — education was high on the list. While many Republican governors have been cutting funds for public institutions, including schools, parents worry about the quality of education for their children.

A teacher in his prime worried if he would have the pension and benefits his father had when he retired from the teaching profession. He is still stuck with student debt. Living in the Denver area, he said he had to stretch to buy a home in an expensive neighborhood to assure his own child an excellent education, adding that finding a middle-class neighborhood was hard because neighborhoods are now either rich or poor.

Education

Nationally education is in crisis, as we saw with the teacher revolt that began in West Virginia early February and spread rapidly to other red states, such as Kentucky, Oklahoma, North Carolina. Teachers were “Fed up” with earning much less than the national teacher salary, which forced them to take second jobs. Unions have been losing their power to negotiate wages, benefits and conditions, and the recent Supreme Court decision on Janus v AFSCME further weakens unions.

Teachers, wearing red bandanas, are using to great effect grassroots organizing tools to win substantial raises in pay. They hit the streets, converge on state Capitols, stage walk-outs and other campaigns. The NEA, the National Education Association “is drastically expanding the number of community organizing trainings it is holding for teachers around the country,” according to an article by Jason Pollack in Newsweek, July12, 2018.

Health and Guns

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Talking to people at the Mile Hi Church in Lakewood, with family in living rooms, with hikers in the Rocky National Park and people in Starbucks, we heard more from ordinary people upset by the direction the country is taking. One mother was horrified that Trump had pressured members of the World Health Organization to drop their support of a proposal to support breast-feeding, known to benefit babies with greater nutrition and lower cost.

In addition to education and health, people I talked to in Colorado are concerned with gun violence. Many here are proud gun-owners and enjoy target practice. Yet one man told me he wondered if a shooting might break out in a library or park where he took his family. The good news is that the majority of gun owners nationally do want reasonable and responsible gun safety laws.

Climate and Environment

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Dead Trees, Rockies, CO

I’ve been visiting the beautiful state of Colorado for ten years, and have noticed startling changes in the environment. It used to be cool at night, and warm in the afternoon. Now my husband and I were unprepared for ten days of above average temperatures. One day  the temperature hit 98 degrees in the afternoon, and temperatures at night have been in the 80s.  People use more air conditioning, which exacerbates the problem of climate change.

Aspen CO wildfire

Last winter Colorado ski resort experienced snow shortages, and this summer from Denver, we see smoke from fires in the mountains – the lack of glacial melt and low rainfall had made for dryness that quickly spread the fires.ABC.go reports: “Wildfire near Aspen, Colorado, sends neighborhoods fleeing. Officials say they’ve ordered more people to evacuate a western Colorado wildfire supposedly started by tracer rounds fired at a shooting range.Jul 5, 2018.” (So the fire is related to hot shells from guns after people were warned not to engage in target practice).

Grassroots Activism works!

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FL State Capitol 2/21/2018. Tallahassee,

If we want people to connect their deep concerns – about the future of their livelihoods, education, and planet – to how they vote in November, we need to knock on doors and urge them to vote for candidates who will address their issues.

Turn Purple Blue!

 

This Can’t Be The Red Wave They Want

When I was 15, I got scared because a couple of friends and I had shared a beer we found after a high school football game and I thought I’d be caught.

Last Friday, 15 year-old Angelique Rodriguez was gunned down in the massacre that claimed 10 lives in Santa Fe, Texas. Her family described her as “busting at the seams with energy and laughter.” Among her classmates who perished were 15 year-olds Christian “Riley” Garcia and Aaron Kyle McCloud. Riley loved to go water skiing on summer vacations with his family. A close friend of Kyle said that he “always looked on the bright side of things.” 

We’ve grown accustomed to the pattern of mass shooting, wall-to-wall cable news coverage, the soulless “thoughts and prayers” from our so-called political leaders, and then we all wait for the next mass murder so we can repeat the cycle anew. But, when will our complacency turn to complicity?

Our children are getting eaten alive by gun violence each and every day. On Mothers Day last Sunday, 15 year-old Gevonnie Frasier was shot and killed in a car. Gevonnie was one of 6 teens killed along with another 13 injured on Mothers Day, according to the Gun Violence Archive. Last Wednesday, in Washington, D.C., 15 year-old Jaylyn Wheeler was shot and killed. Gun Violence Archive reports that 1223 children have been killed by a gun in 2018, 987 teens, and 236 children under the age of 12.

Where are their thoughts and prayers? Where is our moral outrage for Jaylyn and Gevonnie and the 1221 other children killed by guns in 2018? And how many more will die before we close the book on this year?

Connecticut residents are acutely aware of gun violence and mass shootings and our legislature has generally been at the forefront in passing legislation to address it. The General Assembly passed a law this month to ban bump stocks, a device that is used to increase the rate of fire for semiautomatic weapons.

But our leaders failed us when a bill to ban ghost guns never made it to a floor vote. Ghost guns are essentially home kits that allow purchasers to assemble the weapon at home. Ghost guns can be purchased without a background check. And because ghost guns don’t have serial numbers, they are completely untraceable by law enforcement.

It’s easy to get frustrated by the lack of action by our political leaders. It’s easy to become desensitized to a statistic that grows each and every day. But we can’t give up. We can’t allow the memory of Angelique, Riley, Kyle, Gevonnie, Jaylyn and their peers fade into statistics. ICT4 will continue to press for commonsense gun reform in Connecticut, like the failed ghost gun ban. And we’ll work to ensure that politicians who continue to stand with the NRA are voted out of office.

Keep Calm and Remain Vigilent

The Batman comic book series has featured many characters who have served as his sidekick “Robin”. In the late 1980s, Jason Todd, the second Robin to appear in the series, was killed by the Joker. Although Batman then vowed not to take on a new Robin, he is ultimately convinced by Tim Drake that Batman needs Robin, that the idea of Robin is more important than any single individual that might take on that role.

Earlier this month, we learned that a grand jury impaneled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York has been investigating the President’s attorney/consigliere Michael Cohen for several months. Former FBI Director James Comey also made news last week as excerpts of his book A Higher Loyalty began to trickle out in advance of tomorrow’s release and he began to sit for interviews, beginning with an hour long special last night on ABC.

The news heightened concerns that President Trump will take steps to obstruct the ongoing investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, likely by firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and appointing someone who will terminate the Mueller probe.

The threat to the Special Counsel and his investigation has created a pitched concern of a Constitutional crisis and has led many to call on Congress to take action to shield the investigation from Presidential action. And even though bipartisan legislative solutions have been introduced, it seems highly unlikely that Congress can or will take action to preserve the investigation. Instead, that task will fall to all of us.

Understand that, like Batman and Robin, this is not about Rod Rosenstein or Robert Mueller, or any one individual. Rather, we are called to defend the rule of law, called to defend the integrity of our institutions – the Department of Justice, the FBI, and the courts.

Professor Timothy Snyder warned us last year that undermining the rule of law is a pivotal step toward tyranny. And that moment may well be on our doorstep. If it comes, we must take to the streets. We encourage you to register to be notified if a rally occurs.

Understand that if we must act in defense of the rule of law, it will require an intense and sustained effort. Now is the time to get prepared. Try to stay calm amidst the endless breaking news updates. Investigate and learn the truth. Get plenty of sleep. Take time to focus on self-care. And get ready to act.

STUDENT SURVIVORS OF MASSACRE LAUNCH A MASS MOVEMENT IN TWO WEEKS. A TIMELINE.

After a massacre of their friends and teachers, smart and angry students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School turned their grief into action and launched a mass movement for gun reform in just two weeks. I  visited Broward County and paid respects at a memorial in Parkland for the 17 slain students and teachers. A timeline of 2 weeks include my photographs taken at the memorial.

A timeline of tragedy and tremendous courage

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17 slain students and teachers at MSD H.S., Parkland, Florida.


2/14.
I felt shocked by developing news of a school shooting while packing my suitcase on Valentine’s day, of all days. My ears perked up because this shooting was occurring in Florida, where my husband and I were headed the next day. I thought, hey, my nephews attend school in Broward County, not far from Marjory Stoneman Douglas H.S. in Parkland.

We saw videos posted from students hidden in closets – shots and students screaming. Then dread set in upon learning that a disturbed teenager had killed 17 students and teachers and wounded 14 with an assault weapon, an AR-15.

2/15. “After Florida shooting, Trump offers comfort – to gun owners.” ((NBC News headline.) By saying he was “committed to working with state and local leaders to help secure our schools and tackle the difficult issues of mental health,” and avoiding mentioning GUNS at all, he sent an assuring message to gun owners (62% of gun owners voted for trump in 2016, according to exit polls). Larry Pratt of Gun Owners of American said, “that’s very encouraging that he’s not mounting up with the anti-Second Amendment posse.”  Note – see how Trump’s stance changed considerably 2 weeks later.

Students – grieving, shocked, in pain and anger, said they are “sickened” by Trump’s response. They immediately start planning actions.They begin speaking up and objected to the NRA slogan, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” They came up with their own twist: “Guns don’t die, children do.”

2/16. “Raw data on mass shootings in America ” In November, 2017, Gun Violence Archive reported that “we have seen 307 mass shootings” (defined as 4 or more random deaths) from Jan 1 to Nov 5, 2017, which averages 7 per week. It is largely an American phenomenon. The US has 5% of the world’s population and had 31% of all public mass shootings from 1966 to 2012. Since 2013, 7 out of 10 active shootings occurred in schools and businesses. (CNN)

 

Students parents and friends were grieving the losses of those they loved.

2/17. “We’ve had enough,” said a city commissioner, Grace Solomon. She said “we’re not a politically charged community,” but she organized parents and students to travel to Tallahassee, the Florida state capital, to demand “common-sense gun legislation.” Though thousands showed up and students were visible and vocal in the galleries, the lawmakers would not even debate banning assault weapons. They have however, now passed a law to put a plaque on every school, In God we Trust. It seemed to me the plaque could have just as easily said, In guns we trust.

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Student Cameron Kasky adressed a rally at Marjory Stoneman Douglas H.S. Credit: rhona wise/Agene France-Presse/Getty Images.Enter a caption

2/18. “’We call BS’: Fed-up Florida students take gun violence protest to the street.”

At a rally in downtown Fort Lauderdale thousands demanded that lawmakers change the nation’s gun laws. They criticized adults who didn’t prevent the mentally ill shooter from getting a weapon. Emma Gonzalez angrily criticized politicians who take contributions” from the NRA. She said, “’They say a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun, and the crowd chanted, ‘We call BS.’” (Los Angeles Times)

Gun Reform pics - 31 of 402/19. Students planned a March for Our Lives on March 24 in Washington, D.C. and in sister marches all around the country. The Women’s March pledged to help organize it. Celebrities donate huge amounts to the cause. Groups of mothers and kids carrying signs join in a rally against gun violence in downtown Los Angeles, and in Georgia.

At marches, MSD H.S. students reached out to other groups and embraced LGBTQ and Black Lives Matter activists who too often are victims of violence.

2/20.  Don Trump Jr retweeted a conspiracy theory about the kids. It was sickening to hear him attack a boy who simply wants safety from guns.

2/21. CNN held a televised town hall featuring student activists and lawmakers. Sheriff Scott Israel criticized the NRA and urged state lawmakers to give police more power to commit the mental ill to hospitals involuntarily Democratic Senator Nelson (NRA rating F) supported a ban on assault weapons.

Gun Reform pics - 27 of 40 RubioA father whose daughter was killed, asked Senator Marco Rubio (NRA rating A+) if he would vote to ban assault weapons. Rubio hedged and said no because the bill would only ban 200; if they wanted to get rid of all assault weapons they’d have to ban 2000 more! Rubio seemed to think that was ridiculous, but the crowd exploded in cheers. Student Cameron Kaskey pressed Rubio to stop taking NRA money. Rubio said he took the money because they support his agenda and insisted that he didn’t follow their agenda. (“We call BS!”).

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Dana Loesch spoke for the NRA

When NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch spoke up for the right of gun owners, she was not well-received by the grieving, angry roiled up audience. Students were asking, “Why is your right to own a gun s more important than my right to live?”

 After the town hall, Dana Loesch audaciously tweeted, “Teenagers piss me off.”

 

David Hogg at rally SS 2018-02.pngStudent David Hogg had a quick response: We know.”

21. Students who survived a massacre had to defend themselves from attacks from the right wing. David Hogg was said to have been coached by his father, who is retired from the FBI, to say anti-Trump things. A conspiracy theory circulated that the students were paid actors. Stephen Colbert, adding bit of levity to the tragedy, showed a video of one boy’s answer that if anyone had seen him in Fiddler they’d know no one would ever pay him to act. Some of the activists – students and parents – were threatened. But the kids remain couragous. They say older critics are no match for teens on social media.

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My 9 and 11-year-old nephews sat riveted by the town hall. They asked me what happened at Sandy Hook, CT. I reluctantly told them a mentally ill person shot 6 year olds.

My brother asked me if I could think of one thing I liked about Trump. The president had just announced his support for banning bump stocks and for tougher background checks so I had that one thing to say.

 

 

Then trump said he thought select teachers should be armed.

2/22 “Why I will never carry a gun in my classroom.” Victoria Barrett wrote an editorial. “I am an educator. I will not be drafted into an ideological war”…The NRA abandoned its original mission of service and safety decades ago and is “now devoted to lobbying on the part of gun manufacturers. 3% of Americans own half the guns in the U.S…averaging 17 guns per owner…” New sales are necessary for the gun business. “Another way to boost sales is to arm teachers….Our job is to teach; the job of legislators is to pass laws that serve the public.” (Washington Post.)

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Activists at Florida State Capitol end of February, 2018

NRA Executive Director, Wayne La Pierre, whose extreme statements sound paranoid, ranted at the Conservative Political Action Conference: “In the midst of genuine grief…as millions of Americans search for meaningful solutions, what do we find? Chris Murphy, Nancy Pelosi and more cheered on by the national media, eager to blame the NRA and call for even more government control. They hate the NRA, they hate the Second Amendment, they hate individual freedom.”

The students launched a campaign to weaken the influence of the NRA.

2/23. My husband Jim and I visited the memorial set up in Pines Park in Parkland. As soon as I asked directions I choked up. I found 17 mesh sculptures of angels on the stage, with the names of the murdered students. Mourners had placed piles of flowers, stuffed animals, signs, photographs of the slain, votive candles, and notes of support along the edge of the stage, as well as on crosses under 17 blue tents on a nearby field. Jim and I visited each tent to pay our respects. We both worked with youth for most of our careers – Jim taught high school and directed plays with teens, and I worked with teens at schools and art museums. The fresh faces of the slain looked so similar to children we’d taught. As I lay down flowers and a note of support, I thought, the gifts of these children will never be shared with the world.

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Janet Luongo at the Memorial in Parkland, FL for the 17 slain at MSD H.S.

I read more about how the influence of the NRA has infiltrated the Boy Scouts of America and even public schools – starting with shooting programs as early as elementary school. Though there are only 5 million members compared with 50 million seniors and 50 million students, the NRA has have created in America a gun culture. How do they wield so much more influence than their numbers would suggest? They donate millions to political campaigns and lobby our representatives at the local, state and federal level. They contributed a great deal to Trump’s campaign directly and indirectly through PACs with undisclosed donors. In 2016, they spent $20 million to attack Clinton and 11 million to support Trump (ABC News).  The NRA consider Trump a friendly president, part of the club.  It has the ability to motivate its members into action.

They gain perks for their members from companies. But…the students launched a campaign to end those perks and discounts and very quickly made an impact.

2/24. Headline: “The future of NRA’s streaming TV channel is unclear as pressure builds for Amazon, Apple, Youtube and Roku pull the plug.” (Huffington Post.)

The list of companies ending discounts for NRA members: has been growing since then, Met Life, Symantec, Delta, United Airlines…Avis and Budget and Enterprise will end discounts on March 26. Bank of Omaha has stopped issuing NRA credit cards.

2/25 The “good guy with a gun” did nothing. Republican governor Rick Scott, a gun advocate who has received support from the NRA called for the Democratic sheriff, Scott Israel to resign partly because of inaction after many calls directly involving the shooter, and for the failure of his armed deputy, Scot Peterson, who was assigned to MSD H.S.,  to enter the building when shooting was in progress. This fact exposes the NRA slogan “A good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun,” as false and a fantasy.

Oprah dedicated $500,000 to the students cause gun reform.

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Activists and students from MSD H.S. at rally at FL State Capitol to address gun control. 2/21/2018. Tallahassee, Florida.

2/26. Progress: Activists rally at the Florida State Capitol. Congress is considering some modest gun legislation.

US senators Democrat Chris Murphy from CT and Republican John Cornyn from TX are joining forces to propose a fix to the National Instant Criminal Background Check, known as NICS. Quinnipiac and other polls show 85-97% of Americans support background checks. (A few days later, Trump expressed support for background checks.)

2/27. Florida Governor, Rick Scott, showed support for reassessing state gun laws. He formerly was a solid pro-gun advocate with an A+ rating from the NRA. (Reported by Outdoor Life).

Trump, after saying he would have run into the school during the shooting even if he didn’t have a weapon, said he’d also take on the NRA!

2/28. President Trump, live on TV, called for comprehensive gun control, shocking everyone – Democrats and Republicans at the bi-partisan meeting of lawmakers – and Stephen Colbert, who said it was unbelievable Trump said something “reasonable.” Trump has not proposed banning assault weapons, but he followed up on his previous statement on bump stocks by saying he’d write an executive order banning them. He wants to raise the age for buying assault rifles. He also said he’d take away guns from dangerous people. “First take the guns, second, due process.”

Lawmakers say they will “not give up constitutional rights because Trump listened to the last thing someone said to him.” And Ben Shapiro, right wing commentator, called out Trump’s remarks as “the insanity of mouth-farting” on national TV.  Gun owners and the right wing are reacting harshly. Breitbart News labeled Trump the “Gun Grabber in Chief.” Will their pressure make Trump change his mind? Will his base turn on him?

Though Chris Murphy said he’s not highly confident, there are some lawmakers who are hoping for passage of gun reform. The climate has changed. All in two weeks! We can thank the students.

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Students return to class at Marjory Stoneman Douglas H.S. in Parkland, FL, on 2/28/2018, two weeks after a former student opened fire with an assault weapon, killing 17 and wounding 14. Terry Renna/Associated Press

The students reluctantly, gingerly, return to school.

They show no sign of letting up on their activism.

ACTIONS: Follow the youth!

Follow the initiatives of MSD student activists posting on Facebook and Twitter. @DavidHogg, @EmmaGonzales, @CameronKaskey

Join the marches MSD students are planning, such as the March for Our Lives on March 24th in Washington D.C., or sister marches.

Support @NRABoycott by demanding companies stop giving discounts to NRAKeep up the pressure on companies to stop giving perks to the NRA.

Dick’s Sporting Goods to stop selling assault-style rifles. CEO and Chairman Edward Stack says the retailer will also no longer sell firearms to anyone under 21. Walmart is also taking action.

guns don't make us safer

Support organizations such as CAGV (CT Against Gun Violence), Everytown USA, Sandy Hook Promise

Support candidates, such as Chris Murphy, who propose gun reform.

Vote, donate and work on campaigns for candidates who want to make our students and all of us safer.

 

#NeverAgain

 

 

 

 

 

 

#MeToo – National, Local, Personal

 What a week for #MeToo.

 

1. National: allegations of domestic abuse by White House Officials

First, White House Secretary, Rob Porter, stood accused of domestic violence by two ex-wives (bearing evidence of punched faces and court documents). He denied it, but resigned. The previous wives revealed allegations in interviews with the Daily Mail, repeating statements made when the FBI talked with them months ago during security clearance for Porter. Though the FBI, because of the criminal allegations, denied him full clearance, still Porter rose to a high position in the White House.

White House Chief of Staff, John Kelly, who’d been alerted months before about the criminal allegations, defended Porter when the news hit this week, calling him “a man of integrity.” Trump, true to character, asked us to remember that Porter “says he’s innocent,” and that “it was sad and, certainly, he’s also sad.” Not a word of sadness for the women. Trump apparently was not informed of Porter’s past from White House Chief of Staff, Kelly.  Allowing Porter access to top secrets has become another scandal.
A second WH official this week is accused: Is Trump’s White House A twisted #MeToo club of accused men?  “Me too, I also am accused of domestic violence by an ex-wife!” As I write: another White House official, speechwriter David Sorensen, faced allegations of abuse from his former wife. He also denied it and resigned. Other men who worked for Trump were accused by ex-wives of domestic abuse: Former White House Chief of Staff, Steve Bannon, and former Trump campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski. Is Trump attracting men of similar character? His bad behavior toward women has been public for decades. In the New Yorker, Oct. 2016, “Documenting Trump’s Abuse of Women” Jane Mayer wrote about accusations of Trump’s first ex-wife, Ivana, revealed in the 1993 book The Lost Tycoon. The author, Harry Hurt III, had acquired Ivana’s divorce deposition, in which she stated that Trump had raped her.
“Before Hurt’s book came out, Trump’s lawyers pressured the publisher, W. W. Norton, to paste a clarifying statement from Ivana into the flyleaf of every copy. In it, she confirmed that she had said in a deposition that her husband had “raped” her, but added that she did not want those words to be interpreted in “a literal or criminal sense.” She also said, “As a woman, I felt violated.”  

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand nails it when she holds the president accountable for the lack of values in this White House.

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Senator Kirsten Gillibrand

In recent tweets: “In just over one year, Trump and his inner circle have been in headlines repeatedly for their seeming complicity in supporting men accused of sexual misconduct — or for allegations that they’ve committed misconduct themselves…In fall 2017, Trump adamantly supported Roy Moore, the candidate who lost to Doug Jones in the Alabama Senatorial race. Moore had been accused of sexual predation and abuse of minors by multiple women, though Trump sided with Moore. …Republican National Committee Finance Chairman Steve Wynn stepped down from his role, which involved extensive fundraising for Trump, in February amidst the allegations of sexual misconduct. Wynn was regarded as a close ally of Trump.

“It all goes back to the President himself,” Gillibrand writes. He has over a dozen credible allegations of sexual harassment and assault against him and has bragged, on video, about sexually assaulting women…Let’s not forget that Trump himself has been accused of sexual assault by 16 women, some of whom have taken him to court over it. One of these women, Summer Zervos, sued the president for defamation after he called her a liar when she came forward with her allegation. “The President absolutely should be held accountable, and hearings should have already been conducted into these serious allegations,” (Trump Moore and Wynn have denied the allegations against them.)

2. Local: no law in NY against police having sex with someone in custody.

2 cops raped girl NYC 2017In neighboring New York City, where I was raised, two police officers, Hall and Martins, admitted to having sex with an eighteen year old girl but claimed it was consensual. Ana Chambers claims she was raped by the two narcotics officers who arrested her, handcuffed her and held her in a police van where they took turns driving and raping her. DNA from the two officers matched genetic material from Chambers. The officers trial revealed the incredible fact that in New York State – if the accused claim “the sex was consensual” – it is not illegal for police to have sex with someone in custody illegal. There is no law against it by police in NY and in 34 other states. This fact exposes the unjust legal system” that favors power, in this case the power of the state invested in police.

3. Personal: my own #MeToo story at eighteen, living in NYC

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Self portrait of Janet Luongo at 18 years old, wary after abuses.
I was one who spoke out, feeling embraced by my congregation as I revealed incidents of sexual abuse when I was a teen living alone in New York City: a terrifying verbal abuse, and a date rape. At a thoughtful worship service at the Unitarian Church in Westport, “In our Voices: Pain to Empowerment,” we intertwined personal stories with poetry and music that was healing for the men and women participants, as well as for the congregation who overwhelmingly shared their appreciation – verbally and in a survey. I ended my story about how I healed several years after the incidents by speaking the truth.
Journaling helped me in heal turbulent emotions over the years and offer the opportunity for other women to get pain out of their heart/gut /mind and onto the page, in the light, where it can be dealt with among supportive friends. See EVENT below.

EVENT: “Healing Journaling for Women”

1516239890664blobSponsored by TUCWomen.
 Sun. Feb 11, 12:20 – 1:30.
Brown Bag Lunch and Program on Journaling
Bring your lunch and enjoy conversation with women.
The program on journaling will start at 12:45. In a safe environment, a life-long journaler and chaplain at our church, Janet Luongo, will lead exercises to open the heart, release stuck emotions and encourage healing connections with other women. Women may write and share with each other their writing or their feelings about the process, or may remain silent. Materials are provided unless you prefer to bring your own journal. All women are welcome. We invite more facilitators to make writing as a spiritual activity ongoing. The next Healing Journaling for Women, will be offered at the same place, same time on Sun Feb 18 led by Felicia Keeton; More sessions to follow.
 At the Meeting House at The Unitarian Church in Westport, CT (TUCW).
10 Lyons Plains Road, Westport, CT

ACTION: Elect progressives in 2018

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Senator Kirsten Gillibrand calls for change in political power. The time to do so, is election day 2018  — and every day between now and then.

Support at least ONE organization that gets out the vote. Suggestions are listed below.

 

  • Indivisible Actions to work on elections
  • Emily’s List to elect women
  • League of Women’s Voters to educate and register voters.
  • Nat’l Democratic Redistricting Campaign (NDRC) to fix gerrymandering state by state led by Eric Holder, with Obama’s help.
  • Move On and Bernie’s “Our Revolution” –  win national, state and local elections.
  • VoteRiders – assist citizens to secure their voter IDs

Comment, please: What is YOUR choice of  candidate, campaign, organization?

 Sources:

The New Yorker, Elite Daily, Spin, Daily Mail, New York Times, NY Post, Fox News 

LET’S TALK ABOUT RACE AND VOTES

This week I listened to insightful stories about race and immigration, and struggled to watch Trump’s SOTU. Action for voting rights and registration is critically important.

Tuesday, Jan 30. State of the Union Address.

Congressional Black Caucus SOTU 2018
Congressional Black Caucus wearing African kente cloth

I almost didn’t watch. A friend refused to watch saying,  “I don’t listen to his lies, I follow what he does.” Smart. But another friend said watching SOTU was his patriotic duty and, since I am a patriot, I tuned in. Bundled in a comforter, I sank more deeply in my chair with each point, weighed down by the underlying lies and nasty bigotry.

Beyond what the president did NOT include – justice for women and people of color, climate, education, Russia, violence by anyone other than immigrants, the prison for profit system, etc.- he misrepresented the issues he did include in the teleprompter script.

The misleading statement on low black unemployment. Trump took  credit.   Unimpressed the legislators in the Congressional Black Caucus – dressed in African kente clothe to stand in solidarity with people from bleep-hole countries – didn’t even look at the president. Unemployment for black people has been trending down since 2011 and in fact the January, 2018 reported arise to 7.7 % (more than double the 3.5 % white unemployment.)

Falsely Linking immigrants (Latinos) with criminals. What really turned my stomach was Trump’s using his fine guests as tools, turning their stories into a  dig at someone he didn’t like. For instance he told the heart-breaking story of two couples from Long Island, NY, who lost their 16 year old girls to murder by the Gang MS-13 two years ago.  As the parents wept, we grieved for them. Then Trump turned it into an indictment of all Mexican immigrants, conflating immigrants with criminals. Findings in a March 2017 study by the libertarian Cato Institute show “Illegal immigrants are 44 percent less likely to be incarcerated than natives. Legal immigrants are 69 percent less likely to be incarcerated than natives.

Weds., Jan 31, morning. The missing context on the origin of the MS-13 gang.

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I found some history on MS-13 on “Democracy Now” on Jan 31. Yes, who doesn’t agree  gangs are terrible? To eradicate them, it helps to know why they started. The MS-13 gang Trump referred to began, not in Mexico or South America, but in Los Angeles, USA. Amy Goodman interviewed Daniel Denvir, a writer-in-residence at Harvard Law School, who explained how the flight of people escaping the “dirty” wars waged by President Reagan  in Central America led to MS-13 in L.A.

In El Salvador, Reagan backed a right-wing government in its war on leftist revolutionaries. Denvir explained that when people fled the war, Reagan denied they suffered human rights abuses and denied them refugee status. They were forced to “move to segregated communities of poor people of color” where good schools and good jobs were hard to find. Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama continued harsh immigration policies and now Trump is spreading fear and accusing refugees who fled from violence of perpetrating violence.

The irony is that the deportation of gang members led to the gang’s expansion into a transnational crime ring, creating more violence in their home countries. More vulnerable people fled violence to enter the USA illegally and they are now condemned by Trump as criminals. Deportations increase…and the cycle continues.

Weds., Jan 31, evening: Eliminating Racism Conversations

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W. Kamau Bell

In the Eliminating Racism group that meets at the Unitarian Church, Westport, someone recommended the book by Ibram X. Kendi, Stamped From the Beginning. It’s about how racist ideas are imposed upon us from childhood and become part of our unconscious belief system. W. Kamau Bell, a socio political comedian, who won an Emmy award for CNN doc-series United Shades of America, wrote an article published by My Stand: “Talk about Racism? Yes, Now…and Often.” Well, that’s what our group attempts to do – we are getting “comfortable about having uncomfortable conversations,” as Bell says we must.

Thurs., Feb. 1: A knock-out film about the struggle of black people to vote

See the powerful Trailer on Facebook: Let The People Decide Movie Video Preview

Gavin Guerra, at a League of Women Voters event at the Redding Library, showed rough cut clips from his documentary,  Let the People Decide. It tracks the history of the suppression and gaining of voting rights from 1960 to 2016, with an epilogue on Trump’s efforts to once again suppress the votes of people of color. It focuses on North Carolina and Mississippi, then and now, featuring interviews with John Lewis, Harry Belafonte (at 90), Julian Bond and Dick Gregory (now deceased), and with Bob Moses, a lesser known but brilliant and fearless Freedom Rider in Mississippi, Bob Moses was a key character in the book, Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, which inspired Guerra to create this film. He is seeking more screenings to publicize it. He is racing against time to raise funds to meet his goal is to finish it before the elections of 2018.

ACTIONS: Donate and Work to Get Out the Vote – Start NOW!

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Support the organizations below or choose your own but do it now.

Gavin Guerra. Raise funds to help him finish his film on voting well before the November, 2018 election.  Participate in finding more venues to screen the film on the right to vote by black people. Let the People Decide Documentary

 

League of Women Voters League of Women Voters, Westport, CT – is not only for women! Work to educate the electorate on the issues and candidates, and register people to vote. 

MoveOn.org

Our Revolution – Bernie Sanders

Emily’s List. Work to elect progressive women candidates

Join national campaigns of new candidates and those up for re-election. On my list: Elizabeth Warren. Our representatives in DC from CT:  Jim Himes, Dick Blumenthal and Chris Murphy.

Chris Murphy’s Fight Back Connecticut.

Local and state campaigns, legislators, mayors and governors. Ballot initiatives.

Progressive Turn Out Project. A PAC dedicated to connecting with voters and getting Democrats to the polls.

A party, PAC or Committee of your choice. US Senate, House of Representatives.

Tyranny author and Yale historian, Tim Snyder, encourages us to resist by participating in and donating to free media, campaigns, and civic organizations working for justice.

Tip I made a budget, then chose my favorites and set a monthly donation, that way the organization is sustained and I’m not pressed to respond to every request, unless special.

SOURCES:

SOTU fact check: New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/30/us/politics/fact-check-sotu.html

On immigrant crime: Politifact. http://www.politifact.com/california/article/2018/jan/23/provocative-trump-campaign-ad-gives-wrong-impressi/

Unemployment report in January, 2018 from government Bureau of Labor Statistics: https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/empsit.pdf

MS-13: The New Yorker, 2018-01-01. “Teens Trapped Between a Gang and the Law.”

Opioid Epidemic: New Republic. https://newrepublic.com/minutes/146852/donald-trumps-solution-opioid-crisis-less-immigration

On origins of gang MS-13. Democracy Now (WBAI) Jan 31. https://www.democracynow.org/2018/1/31/made_in_the_usa_the_real