Dear DNC

I am in receipt of your letter (undated) and the “Urgent Annual Renewal Statement.” I thought this would be a good opportunity to communicate with you about my concerns with the party.

The only chance in hell of uniting progressives is for the leadership of the DNC to start immediately with an outreach to enfranchise new voices. That means real grassroots outreach. Do you actually know how to do this? Because if you don’t, you need to hire some new people.

Grassroots outreach means not deciding what you’re going to do until you listen to what people are saying. How do you do that? The national party depends on local and state affiliates to do their own thing, and many are doing a great job. But appropriate leadership from the DNC means ensuring that all state and local affiliates are building strong grassroots participation. You don’t do that by sending out donation form letters with a token mention of what the party stands for.

You missed an opportunity with this mail-out soliciting my donation. Why wasn’t there a questionnaire seeking input on issues ranging from how to improve the DNC to how to address the problems of domestic terrorism? Such a questionnaire should be formulated by the best strategists money can buy, people with experience in building grassroots campaigns and in dissecting big problems into identifiable components. Why aren’t you thinking about things like that? Involve the people in constructive dialogue about the future of the party and money will follow.

Create a national forum on social media. Once you’ve organized a method of outreach, the responses in turn will inform leaders and help frame the party’s platform. With a coherent plan of questions/topics, the national party then provides those questions to state parties who present these questions on their Facebook pages, soliciting feedback and engaging with persons who post comments.

Maybe you think you already know the answers, and that’s a big problem. You’re missing the point. It is the process that matters, developing a dialogue, listening, negotiating, arbitrating. Building consensus among those who desperately want to move the nation forward and don’t know what to do next. You have to tap that energy, help funnel it toward constructive action.

Right now liberals are arguing among themselves, pro Bernie, anti Bernie, pro Jill Stein, revolution, stay the course. It’s sickening.

Plan for two questions/discussions per month, no less. On alternate weeks, present a new face with background info on the person. Once a month, the new face is a potential presidential candidate. For the other once-a-month person, state parties plug in a potential candidate for state office. Include links to each potential candidate’s Facebook page.

State Democratic Party Facebook pages should include postings from any local chapters in that state even if such material is being posted on individual local committee FB pages. Minutes of meetings would be useful posts, local and state. Nationally, the DNC should also post on state FB pages any news from their various committees. Let the state parties be the active link that voters come to rely on for news about local, state, and national Democratic Party plans, ideas, and activities.

This is a starting place.

Surely I don’t need to list all the topics in need of discussion, but here are a few to get you started.

How do we develop clear recommendations about how to make the Affordable Care Act more viable? We need to present that in opposition to the Republican efforts to repeal and replace.

We need to solicit effective statements on why climate change threatens our future – specifics for each locality and when those changes can be expected.

We need to develop clear data on domestic terrorism and how it is tied to white supremacy and racism and outline how this parallels the rise of groups like ISIS. We need to develop creative ways to dismantle extremism in all its forms, understand the role of poor health and lack of education and other factors that contribute to a person’s sense of threat that underlies prejudice.

We need to have a thorough vetting of the school voucher idea and lay out the ways such programs violate the First Amendment as well as how they undermine public schools. Address the problems with public schools that cause parents to want vouchers – how do we make schools better?

These are but a few of the many pressing issues facing us. Elected officials current and future need to hear from the grassroots, not only concerns and ideas for solutions, but also the roar of their support as Election Day nears. This is the ultimate task of the national party, to develop effective ways to hear from the people. Everything else follows from that.

You may say that social media is easily infiltrated by trolls who would disrupt and spread false information. Well, that’s already going on. As long as we have public appearances by Hillary Clinton and Tom Perez rehashing old news, we’re going nowhere. Enough already!

Here are some potential presidential candidates for the next election. Warning up front: no women appear on this list. Let me point out that I am a woman, have been active in NOW, and believe women are in many ways the future of politics in this nation. But my objective is to elect a Democratic president in 2020. A female this time around is like shooting yourself in the foot and then a week later shooting the other foot.

Among the men I’m listing are very few minorities. Please refer to the last sentence of the previous paragraph.

Current governors:

Jay Inslee, Washington State. Governor since 2013, 20 years in the U.S. Congress, state legislature before that. Born 1951.

Roy Cooper, North Carolina governor since January this year. Attorney general from 2001-2017, previously state senate. Born 1957. **Extra points for beating an incumbent Republican.

Steve Bullock, governor Montana since 2013. Attorney general 2009-2013. Born 1966.

John Hickenlooper, governor Colorado since 2011, mayor of Denver CO 2003-2011. Born 1952.

Currently in U. S. Senate:

Michael Bennett, Colorado. Born 1964. Long track record in government office.

Chris Murphy, Connecticut. Born 1973. Long track record in state government.

Cory Booker, New Jersey. Born 1969. Previously Newark mayor, active outreach ongoing.

Sherrod Brown, Ohio. Born 1952. Long career in elected positions.

Sheldon Whitehouse, Rhode Island. Born 1955. US Attorney 1993-1998; attorney general 1999-2003

Bob Casey, Pennsylvania. Born 1960. Government office since 1996. ***Extra points for defeating a Republican.

Mark Warner, Virginia. Born 1954. Lots of elected positions

House of Representatives:

Tim Ryan, Ohio

Jim Crowley, New York

Eric Swalwell, California

Ruben Gallego, Arizona

Joe Kennedy III, Massachusetts

Seth Moulton, Massachusetts

State Offices:

Pete Buttigeig, Mayor South Bend, Indiana

Joaquin Castro, Texas

Julian Castro, Texas (twins)

Jason Kander, Missouri

Of all these, I’ve seen only a few mentioned in media or Facebook posts. This is the point in time when voters need to consider possible candidates and rule them in or out. These decisions need to come from the bottom up.

Speaking for my home state, our Democratic Party Facebook page has seen about twenty posts since Trump took office. I’ve not seen any potential 2018 candidates put forth. Our local party is active, and in our region we’ve seen one potential Congressional candidate throw his hat in the ring. This is completely unacceptable. MORE!

As far as Bernie supporters go, the bitching needs to stop about what happened last year. That’s a good example of living in the past. It’s over. Now what? Let’s realize that plans to forge ahead as a Bernie/Independent Party has about as much chance to get a president elected as the success enjoyed by the American Independent Party candidate George Wallace, Reform Party candidate Ross Perot, or last year’s Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson and Green Party nominee Jill Stein.

The DNC must make a bigger demonstration of how it is incorporating Bernie ideas and people into the party. Bernie has a responsibility to bring his supporters to engagement with the Democratic Party. Where are his innovative ideas about how to do that? What ideas do his supporters have that could move the Democratic Party closer to positions they could embrace? It can’t just be about big banks and warmongering and money from billionaires and all those other old worn-out leftist rants. What are concrete, realistic steps that party needs to make to get Bernie supporters on board?

My hopes for the future remain invested in the Democratic Party. It hurts me to see how much we’ve lost over the last several election cycles. It’s the DNC’s job to figure out why and develop solutions to reverse this trend. You won’t figure that out with consultants or policy wonks. The PEOPLE have the answers. Ask us.

Where Are The Fresh Democrats?

Healthy Young Mule

Last night as the evening news appeared on my television screen, I did not want to see or hear from Hillary Clinton. I voted for her, so don’t get me wrong. But her time has passed. Now she stands for failure.

Considering how tone deaf and stupid about the American people she seems, it shouldn’t surprise me that she’s unaware of her uselessness. If Democrats can’t move away from her as the quasi-leader/spokesperson for the party, we’ll never get anywhere.

Maybe the Democratic Party had nothing to do with her appearance. Maybe they’re cringing too.

If the Democratic Party wants to regain their proper place in American politics, that is, as the progressive, common man’s party, they have to move away from the faces and voices that have become tired and futile.

They’ll also have to step up their game. Before the Democrats assembled to vote for their national leadership earlier this year, I sent an email to the head of the Democratic Party of Arkansas. I voiced my concern about a potential leadership win by Tom Perez or Keith Ellison. I urged the party to start a clean slate by bringing the relative newcomer, Pete Buttagieg, to the role. The email was never answered or acknowledged in any way.

This lack of communication is but one of many structural problems within the Democratic Party. While some of the local chapters in Arkansas are highly active and well organized, other chapters barely function. It is inexcusable that the leadership of a state party should fail to acknowledge an email from a concerned party member. Before and after my futile attempt to be heard, I’ve noted the lack of perceptible outreach, even though I’ve voted Democratic all my life, have been an active member of my region’s Senior Democrats, and have helped the party in various ways for fifty years.

I know I’m on lists because I get the fundraising calls. I also know that if I attended meetings either of the Democratic Women’s group, the Senior Democrats, or the Democratic Party of Washington County, I would be heard. But seriously, in the age of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, how are meetings any measure of the party’s effectiveness?

If I’m on a list for soliciting contributions, I should also be on a list for soliciting feedback. Before the party invests millions in elections, it needs to spend even more millions to develop a much greater outreach. The recent local elections in Kansas and Georgia have clearly revealed the failure of the party to make hay while the sun shines. It’s almost as if the near wins by Democrats in those races occurred in spite of the party’s benign neglect.

The Kansas candidate, James Thompson, pleaded with the Kansas Democratic Party for money, but the decision from on high was not to get heavily involved. One rationale was that Democratic Party money would paint a bulls-eye on Thompson and draw heavy Republican opposition. Another was, according to one report, that it’s “the party’s responsibility to make difficult choices about which races are winnable and worth investing in, and Kansas’ 4th does not normally jump to the top of that list.”

I call BULLSHIT on that line of thinking. Any win is an important win. Especially in the Kansas 4th district.

In this regard, I’m more aligned with the Sanders approach for the party. It’s not just that the party needs to know what voters care about—although they do. It’s that voters need to know that the party cares about what they think, that the party reflects their values and concerns.

The perception and, unfortunately, the evident fact, is that the Democratic Party no longer enjoys a grassroots base. It is run top down, as perfectly evidenced last night as Hillary regurgitated her rationalization of why she lost the election and now offers herself as part of the “Resistance.” She imagines herself as a valiant leader at the head of a mob charging forth to retake the government from the Orange One and his cruel minions in Congress.

Sadly, Hillary not only does not matter anymore, she also now serves as a great harm to any future Democratic Party effort. I’m sorry for her. She was and is imminently qualified to lead the country. I sympathize with her torment. But she has to get off the stage. If she perseveres, the party needs to use the hook.

Even more sadly, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders also need to shut up and excuse themselves from the spotlight. Warren comes across now as a one-note strident voice, the stereotypical shrill female ranting about one or another thing. Many of those who see her don’t even hear what she’s saying. They only hear an angry female. Bernie repeats himself ad infinitum, still a curmudgeonly old teddy bear who’s growing fuzzy around the edges. Both Bernie and Elizabeth serve well for the progressive cause in the senate. Period.

All three of these veteran progressives are needed behind the scenes as advisers and champions of new talent. Behind the scenes.

Where are the fresh new ideas that can revive the Democratic Party, and with them the fresh new faces, potential candidates without the divisive baggage of the 2016 election campaign? Why aren’t there highly publicized Facebook campaigns that introduce the nation to new rising stars including photos, background info, and Q&A sessions with whoever wants to participate? Those rising stars need to answer questions, reveal their passion and qualifications, show us how they think and interact.

I want to know more about Joe Kennedy III and the many others like him, although young Joe looks a bit too young.

Why aren’t there open discussions on social media on topics of concern? For example: This week the topic is our foreign policy regarding Syria. This week our topic is the pros and cons of school vouchers. Such sessions would require precise handling by knowledgeable facilitators. The objective of a regular ongoing social media campaign with highly organized strategies is not only to further inform the party leadership and potential candidates about what voters think and care about, but even more importantly to empower people to see the importance of their role in the governance of this nation.

In the old days, party activity reflected the participation of local voters because people attended local party meetings, argued, commiserated, and found the best people among them willing to run for the various offices. People knew they mattered and took their citizenship quite seriously. Now there’s a pervasive laziness about attending such meetings, and the party continues to fail in finding creative ways to gain greater interaction aside from meetings.

In that regard, the Bernie Sanders campaign serves as a vitally instructive example of how social media can help build a strong electorate. Local activist groups in support of his campaign depended on social media as an outreach tool, something I rarely if ever saw occur with Hillary’s campaign. Considering his former role with the Sanders campaign, Keith Ellison as co-chair of the national party surely is aware of this important avenue. Who is listening to him?

We might assume there are regular vibrant strategy meetings within the party, but who knows? That kind of information and what is being discussed needs to be heralded from the rooftops. For example, for the current vice chair of “civic engagement and voter participation,” Karen Carter Peterson, there is nothing on the Democratic Party website describing what programs Ms. Peterson might have underway—if any.

There are other revealing failures of the national party’s website. For example, under the heading “Work With Us,” there are four job listings such as “Chief Technology Officer.” Not exactly what a potential activist/worker might expect.

Or consider the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Their purpose is to elect more Democrats to the United States Senate.

From grassroots organizing to candidate recruitment to providing campaign funds for tight races, the DSCC is working hard all year, every year to elect Democrats to move our country forward. They provide services such as designing and helping execute field operations, polling, creating radio and television commercials, fundraising, communications, and management consulting.

Where in all that does the potential voter come in? In theory, one might assume that “field operations” includes engaging with the mere populace, but that doesn’t seem to be a clear objective. More top down thinking.

Not difficult to see why so many voters feel that the Democratic Party is all pre-ordained machinations in the hands of a few sanctioned men and women based on some rigid operational plan that made sense in the 1990s. Hillary on the evening news only cements that view.

Take a look at the party’s website then find your state chapter and let your voice be heard.

In Arkansas, LIKE your state Democratic Party Facebook page and don’t be shy about speaking up.

This Is For You, Donald

woman-slaps-man

I am so sick of this election campaign. Specifically Donald Trump. Throughout last night’s debate, I kept wishing Hillary would just walk over to that lying chump and slap his filthy mouth. What a jerk.

He respects women. *slap* Because all those nasty lying bitches out there telling the truth about what he did to them, touching without permission, treated like a sex object there for his taking, that was all just lies. *slap*

Because mean ole Hillary and her sleazy campaign set all that up, went out in the night and rounded up a bunch of random women who just happened to have documented prior contact with Trump which made them the perfect candidates for this massive con. Because if he loses this election, it will only be because everyone is so mean to him and he never did anything wrong. (whine whine) *slap slap*

Because the problem is Bill Clinton, because all those nice women accusing Bill are telling the truth. Worse, Hillary said bad things to them at the time. *slap*

Because it takes government and laws to decide what women can do inside their own bodies. *slap slap slap*

Trump’s words originate in the animal part of his brain, that ancient area where fear and hunger control behavior. It’s as if his frontal lobes are missing, you know, that part where analysis and rational thought processes occur. He was unable to outline any specific policies he plans to implement—because he doesn’t have any. His entire shtick is to pump up the fear and hatred rampant in his fan base.

And then once elected, you can hear between the lines—in what for him passes as thinking—that he’ll let Pence and Giuliani and Christie and the rest of his pathetic sycophants run the government.

That an educated, intelligent woman like Hillary Clinton would have to stand there and be repeatedly insulted by this ape infuriates me. His job in this debate was to answer the f***ing questions. He was supposed to demonstrate that he understands national policy issues and present his proposals—how, for example, would he identify and remove eleven million illegal immigrants and their four million children who have been legally born in this country?

He has no idea. It’s a sound bite, pandering to people afraid of people who are different.

How would he improve the situation in the Middle East? Do a Ted Cruz and ‘carpet bomb’ the region until the sand melted? No idea.

Trump knew just enough to look stupid, no doubt the result of exhaustive efforts by those few advisors who continue to believe Trump is worth saving. Our alliances with foreign nations aren’t one-sided deals, no matter how he and his followers manage to obfuscate the issue. I wanted Hillary to rebut his stupid claims, talk about how much we get from all our allies not only in trade and national defense but in outright payment for our goods and services. We haven’t become the most powerful nation in the world by making idiot choices in our foreign policy. And our alliances and foreign policies did not begin and end with Obama or his secretary of state.

Donald, get real. The war in Iraq was entirely on the Bush administration including the withdrawal that, you ignorantly complain, was Obama and Hillary opening the door to ISIS. *slap* The first Gulf war was also a Bush administration move, even though you’ve tried to say that if it had been done ‘right,’ we wouldn’t have had to go over there again.

Then there’s that horrible nasty NAFTA trade deal that Donald kept laying at the feet of Bill Clinton. Another huge lie. *slap slap* That deal started in 1991 when, again, a Bush administration held the reins of our national government. All the details had been worked out before Bill Clinton ever took office. Yes, he signed it into law in 1994, but it was done deal by then.

But you wouldn’t know the realities of foreign policy or anything else requiring thoughtful consideration because you were busy with your snout up some woman’s skirt.

And what about all that job loss you keep ranting about? Well, fact is, Donald, you conveniently ignore the reality about America’s lost labor force. It has little to do with trade deals and a lot to do with technology. Cars aren’t built by union men with high paying jobs because they’re now built by robots.

This is why education should be at the top of the list for anyone who really expects to improve opportunities for working Americans. Standing at an iron furnace is no longer required—computer-operated machines do that. Aging workers who lost jobs to advancing technology can be retrained but only if we invest as a nation in that retraining. Young people can be employed—if they’re computer literate or offered opportunities in technical training—just like Hillary talked about in between having to stand there listening to your ignorant drivel.

What manufacturing jobs remain have moved to Third World countries because corporations have pushed through laws that allow maximum profits and no accountability to their citizenship. They’ve gained legal permission not to pay taxes. Their allegiance is to their stockholders and CEOs. But this isn’t new, not a result of a Democratic administration or the single four-year term of a secretary of state. And I’m sorry, but did I hear you complain about these policies for the last forty years that you’ve taken full advantage of them?

This is a result of slow shifts in how products are made, the incorporation of digital technologies that increase productivity even as they make many old labor intensive jobs obsolete. This shift has been underway for fifty years or longer. It’s been at least since the 1970s that Americans were warned that a new service-based economy was on the horizon.

But Hillary was right not to get tangled up in rebutting his litany of lies. His followers wouldn’t believe anything she said even if they understood it. And Trump is not capable of learning. Anything.

Somewhere deep inside, Trump knows he’s a f***ing loser. That’s why he has to sneak up and cop a feel on women who wouldn’t give him the time of day if he asked. That’s why he can’t formulate a single specific policy plan for any of the issues he likes to rant about. That’s why he has to whine about rigged elections.

Little rich kid Trump never learned to take responsibility for anything—not his actions, not his business failures, not the miserable campaign he’s managed to run on the backs of a terrified and easily manipulated segment of the population. He never did the things he said he did to women—and it’s their fault for bringing it up.

Wait, what?

That he would deny the validity of the election out of his craven need to excuse his monumental failure not only as a candidate but as a human being is not just inexcusable. It’s treason.

And yes, I still want to slap him. Fortunately, I think the majority of American voters are about to do it for me.

Oh, my brother!

primate-to-people-ploys

 

There are people I love who are planning to vote for Trump. This hurts me in ways I can’t fully express. Both of my brothers, for example. These are men with master’s degrees, men who endeavor to do good in this world. How can they vote for Donald Trump?

They tell me it’s because they’re Republicans. Because they don’t embrace the ‘liberal’ agenda. They’ve fallen hook line and sinker for the hate-hillary propaganda that she’s a liar, that she’s committed countless crimes and has only escaped proper justice by pulling strings in the power structure she is part of.

They’re also fervent Christians. I say, surely you don’t think Trump is a Christian. They say they’re not voting for a pope.

They tell me Trump is just a flawed man like the rest of us and he cares about this country. They say he knows business and that’s what we need. Somebody who knows what it means to sign paychecks. As if running a nation is the same as running a business.

They say they’d never vote for Hillary because she’s pro-abortion. I say she’s not pro-abortion, she’s pro-choice. Meaning that in a free society that respects individual rights, government can never force women to carry pregnancies that might kill them, that might produce a severely impaired child, that will bring undue hardship to her or her already existing children.

They say homosexuality and transgender is an abomination of God’s will, that they’d never vote for the gay agenda that Hillary supports. I say, what is a gay agenda? That two people who love each other possess legal rights as next of kin, as property owners, as parents? That everyone deserves to be treated with respect?

I’ve tried to make them understand. They’re not listening.

They’ve latched onto the Benghazi rhetoric. They believe Clinton will flood the U. S. with unvetted refugees and bring a holocaust of terrorism to our front steps. They believe every single hateful lie that has been broadcast about her not just in the last year, but over the last three decades.

Yet they say Trump is just a flawed man who cares about this country. God will guide him. They believe in him. I say, so God won’t guide Hillary? She doesn’t care about this country?

I’ve asked them, what if Hillary was the one who’d been a serial adulterer? What if she’d been sued 3,500 times? What if her companies had filed bankruptcy multiple times?

What if Hillary had refused to release her taxes? Or her health records? Taken money from her charitable foundations for personal use? Not contributed to her charitable foundations with a dime of personal money for the last eight years?

Of course they’d be outraged.

I don’t even try to point out the inherent sexism in their lives that may undergird their instinctual rejection of Clinton. They both have subservient wives. They both enjoy the full measure of white male privilege. For them, God is unquestionably male and all else flows from that. They’re seeking a strong authoritative male as leader and can’t tell the difference between a patriarch like God and a bully like Trump.

It’s not that my brothers don’t have the capacity of reason to examine the facts about each candidate. It’s that their minds are already made up. Why should they ‘waste’ their time reading about Hillary or hearing criticism of Trump?

Which—in an otherwise normal election cycle—might be enough said. After all, we all have the right to be just as stupid and obstinate as the next guy. It’s a free country.

But this is not a normal election. Trump is not normal. Trump doesn’t have policies or plans. Trump has bluster, braggadocio, and unbridled ego. His base instincts feed on anger and fear. He incites and revels in violence, loves to see fury in the eyes of his audience.

Yes, he’s a flawed man, flawed in the worst possible ways for someone who would be granted unlimited access to our nation’s most important secrets, to hold the reins of our military, to direct the future course of our educational systems, to oversee the protection of our air, water, and wildlife. To become the leader of the free world. His flaws go beyond his stated positions on immigration or national defense, beyond his inability to grasp basic human rights or due process of law.

His flaws threaten everything we as Americans hold dear.

To believe, as my brothers do, that Trump can tend to the myriad duties and responsibilities of the presidency is simply to ignore what’s right in front of their faces. Trump is not a reasonable or educated or sane man. He’s ignorant of basic facts. He does not have the equanimity or the patience to negotiate with Congress. He does things by fiat because that’s what you do when you’re the tyrant at the top of a corporate empire.

But government is very much NOT a business. It’s a delicate balancing act of hearing all sides even if you don’t agree with them. It’s a patient practice of enforcing what the Founders set down in the Constitution whether it fits your personal agenda or not. Trump is not capable of reasoning the finer points of anything. It’s his way or the highway. It’s ‘You’re fired.’

What my brothers don’t understand – or refuse to see – is that electing Trump isn’t just a matter of whether he’s anti-abortion or has signed a paycheck. It’s not that he (theoretically) will carry forth the traditional Republican agenda of smaller government and traditional values. Electing Trump goes beyond issues.

Electing Trump is about putting a mentally ill man in the White House. About giving unfettered authority to a man without basic human decency. About expecting leadership from a man who can’t order his own thoughts.

It’s about the future of the world, about everything we’ve gained in thousands of years of human progress. It’s about what can happen in one raged-fueled moment with an undisciplined man who would become more powerful than he’d ever imagined and sees it as his right and his responsibility to punish whoever enraged him.

Martial law? Stop and frisk anyone who might be suspicious.

Mass deportation? The enemy is anyone without white skin.

Genocide? He’s said it—not only ISIS leaders but their families.

Nuclear? Sure. He’s already touted it as an option.

I’m sick with worry, not so much about Trump actually winning the presidency. I have too much faith in a majority of American voters to think he might actually win.

I’m sick with worry that I’m losing all respect for my brothers. Not just in their choice to vote for Trump, but what’s behind that choice—intellectual laziness, a narrow-minded focus on a few social issues, their choice of religion over country.

I’m losing respect over their refusal to evolve.

A Year Later — Justin Harris

harris

Last year I blogged about a “State of Perversion” in Arkansas. The news broke with a sensational expose by the Arkansas Times on our local state representative Justin Harris. Now a year from his outing, this seems an appropriate time to check on how far we’ve come. (Or haven’t.)

Here, in part, is what I wrote:

“Justin Harris is serving his third term in the Arkansas Legislature where he has introduced conservative measures ranging from abortion restriction to denying funding to the state’s department of human services under the campaign promise to reduce government spending. He and his wife own and operate a preschool in his legislative district town of West Fork, a largely rural constituency with a high percentage of fundamentalist church followers. Alongside the alphabet and fingerpainting, Mr. Harris’ school teaches religion.

  • UPDATE: Since the scandal broke, Mr. Harris announced he would not run for another term. However, he refused to resign, meaning he continues to serve at the state capitol until January 2017. Even more disgusting has been the utter and abject failure of any Republican legislator to criticize Mr. Harris.

“In 2012, Harris found himself on the hot seat after a formal complaint was filed by Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Seems Mr. No Government Funding had his hand in the public till by obtaining grant funding for his preschool. Over a million dollars had flowed into his coffers, courtesy of a state agency charged with providing tax monies in support of preschools that addressed the needs of ‘underserved’ youth…

“Mr. Harris mounted a vigorous and outraged defense of his right to all that money. He brought in a team of attorneys from Arizona who specialized in defending schools who want to teach Jesus on the public dime. Subsequently, the ABC program promulgated a set of rules specifically addressing the issue of religious instruction. It is unknown whether the ‘solution’ was put forth by the Arizona attorneys, modeled on rules operating in other states, or sprang from a singular Arkansas process, but the novel approach defines an ‘ABC day’ as a set number of hours of purely secular instruction. Whether religious instruction occurs before the ABC day commences or after it ends would not be the state’s concern.

“Since then, Mr. Harris has expanded his operation and state funding approaches a million dollars annually. His students arrive as early as 7:30 a.m. and leave as late as 6 p.m. The ABC day begins at 9 and lasts until 3. Before and after, it’s all about Jesus.

  • UPDATE: An exchange of information with Americans United for Separation of Church and State reveals that under current federal guidelines, states can use tax dollars in this way. Apparently there’s no compelling interest in establishing a viability test where a school would have to prove that its religious instruction could exist separately without the use of tax dollars. In the case of the Harris school, if tax dollars didn’t support the rent, utilities, and salaries for operations, the school would cease to exist. Repeated questioning of DHS money managers produced zero interest in developing or implementing such a test.
  • Likewise, we can hardly expect much interest for reform among current members of Congress who quake in fear of the Religious Right. Closing a loophole that recruits so many young minds to their way of thinking is simply not to be considered even if that loophole stands in clear violation of the U. S. Constitution.

“Soon after the flap over school funding, the Harrises…decided to adopt little three girls whose dysfunctional family had lost custody. The girls were fairly well adjusted in a foster home, but the natural mother allegedly made a personal plea to Justin Harris. This arguably admirable effort left many to question Harris’ quick use of the girls in a family portrait promoting his re-election campaign (a violation of adoption policy), the nearly $30,000 tax break that came with the adoption, and the monthly stipend allotted to Harris in the form of state support. Clearly, the adoption wasn’t all about benevolence.

“Firmly fixated on the adoption idea, the Harrises refused to listen to DHS field agents who reported that the girls would not be suitable in the Harris household. With all the arrogance befitting a person who believed God directed his acts, Harris apparently used his elected office to pressure DHS to approve the adoption. Local caseworkers opposed to the adoption mysteriously changed their recommendation after their boss advocated on the Harris’ behalf. That Justin Harris held a powerful position in the legislative committee which controlled DHS funding seems never to have been examined as a possible contributor to this department head’s advocacy, which resulted in a local juvenile court judge granting the adoption. Unfortunately, because the case involves adoption, DHS has not released any information.”

  • UPDATE: Unfortunately, nothing is known to have changed regarding inappropriate legislator influence over DHS activities. But the incident does reveal the ugly underbelly of an organized evangelical movement to adopt children. The objective is two-fold: provide a viable argument against abortion rights for women and brainwash vulnerable youngsters to extremist religious views.

“Within a year, the Harrises decided to ‘rehome’ the girls to another family. By early 2014, one of the girls had been raped by her new ‘father,’ Eric Cameron Francis. Later that year, Francis would be convicted of multiple counts of child abuse and is currently serving time. As it turns out, Francis had been an employee at the Harris preschool and his wife was good friends with Mrs. Harris. Not surprisingly, Harris chose to stay quiet about his role in placing the victim in the Francis home until a reporter from the Arkansas Times connected the dots. The story went public in March 2015.

“When the adoption/rehoming scandal broke, Harris held a press conference as reported by the Arkansas Times. He presented himself and his family as the damaged party.

“…He said one of the girls — the implication was the middle sister — had to be medicated to stop hurting her sister, and that he was advised by therapists to treat her RAD [Reactive Attachment Disorder] by removing toys and other belongings from her room.

  • UPDATE: Harris never publicly accepted responsibility for the harm inflicted on these girls. While his initial reaction seemed to portray him and his wife as the aggrieved parties, his last public statement on the issue included a comment to the effect that he felt sad about what happened to the girls…as if he personally had nothing to do with it.
  • ABC News produced a close-up on the Harris adoption scandal. The report failed to address the ignored caseworker input and accepted at face value the excuse of Reactive Attachment Disorder. In response, a statement from a collective of mental health professionals criticized the ABC report and refuted RAD as a legitimate diagnosis.
  • On a more promising note, however, the girls are reportedly well adjusted in their new post-Harris adoptive home. And newly-elected Governor Asa Hutchinson saw fit to accept the resignation of the head of DHS and has hired a new person to fill this slot. He has also instigated a complete revamping of the department.

“Harris said he sought DHS assistance at that time but was given none. He said he thought he’d found the ‘perfect solution’ in handing the girls over to…Eric Cameron Francis. Eric Francis is serving 40 years in prison on charges of raping the child.”

  • UPDATE: Justin Harris has continued to hire questionable employees to care for the vulnerable young children attending his preschool. A school bus driver failed to notice that a child remained on the bus. The child was not discovered until early afternoon. Fortunately, the temperature remained fairly mild that day and the van was parked in the shade. The child suffered no ill effects. Nevertheless, the driver was prosecuted. The Harrises fired the driver immediately upon discovery of the incident and accepted no responsibility even though the school failed to abide by its own protocols in checking attendance which would have discovered the missing child.
  • Additionally, word has leaked out that another male employee was fired in December 2015 for inappropriate contact with the students. Seems the Harrises might need to employ better screening methods for prospective employees other than learning whether the candidate regularly attends church.

“Within a month of the revelation that Arkansas DHS had no rule or restriction on the rehoming of adopted children, the state legislature passed a law making rehoming a felony. Harris voted for the bill, in essence making himself a retroactive felon. He resigned from the chairmanship of the public health committee, but failed to yield his legislative seat. He has also refused to accept any responsibility for the little girl’s sexual abuse. At the peak of this fiasco, his school billboard proclaimed that ‘God Himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.’”

  • UPDATE: Happily for all of us in South Washington County who must drive past the Harris pre-school on a daily basis, the school’s outside billboard has remained empty of Godly exhortations since the beginning of the 2015-16 school year, with the exception of a brief period during Christmas.

“Throughout the intense scrutiny on Harris and his failure as an adoptive parent, a considerable body of information has come to light about ongoing religious activities at his preschool. Although random spot inspections by the state theoretically rule out the chance of illegal religious activity during the ‘ABC day,’ reports from former teachers and others allege that children who misbehave are routinely taken to the office where they are prayed over to ‘cast out demons…’

  • UPDATE: There’s been no official (or unofficial) statement from any elected leader or state agency on the use of prayer to cast demons out of misbehaving youngsters. Why would it be so difficult to issue a blanket policy statement about the negative impact on young minds of promoting the belief that demons might inhabit a person or that such demons, rather than oneself, is the party responsible for misbehavior?

“…While firmly denying funding to DHS based on his campaign promise to reduce government spending, Mr. Harris (as legislator) fought for government handouts to fund his religious school in spite of the fact that he knew he was breaking the law by teaching religion in a tax-supported program. As an elected person who held himself up as an example of Christian righteousness, he should have been the first person to recognize he was crossing the line between church and state as delineated in the U. S. Constitution. Instead, assuming he understood the thrust of the Founding Fathers’ intent, he no doubt privately justified his behavior with his belief that God willed it…

“This kind of simplistic medieval thinking lies behind the ability of political handlers to capture votes from the evangelical demographic. The compelling argument is that demons rule the ‘other’ party, that gay marriage, abortion, and other private activities are the proper province of political action, and only by voting for Mr. Righteous can we satisfy the will of God.

“There are many features of modern life that scare the hell out of those who simply cannot understand science or other changes increasingly widespread in the world. Our technology and culture have evolved faster than our mental or physical state. Everything is too fast and too complicated. It’s only been a hundred years since picking peas and saddling a horse served as the requisite skill set to get through life.

  • UPDATE: Which brings us to the candidacy of Donald Trump. Although no one would claim that Trump is a model of evangelical righteousness, he embodies another characteristic evidently more important to the religious right: the ability to dominate. Of almost equal importance is Trump’s wealth, which evangelicals view as God’s gift to a righteous man.
  • Just as the religious right’s concept of a Supreme Being embodies power and arrogance, so does Trump. By reflecting back the anger, fear, and blind hatred toward those unlike themselves, Trump approaches the brink of gaining the Republican nomination for president. The collusion of willful ignorance and the result of years of religious education (versus education based on logic and fact) now stands before us.

One final encouraging note: Justin and Marsha Harris’ West Fork home is up for sale. It may be asking too much, but one can hope that at least this one preschool operation will be taken over by an educator, not another evangelist, and that the children there will learn rational thought along with their ABCs.

Finally, we’re pleased to note that Mr. Harris earned the top ‘dick’ award for 2015.

Coming soon…an update on the Duggar family’s equally outrageous 2015.

 

First, We’re Democrats

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An emerging narrative from Bernie supporters alleges that the Baby Boomer generation ‘shit all over’ the younger folks and now it’s time for us to step out of the way. The militant rhetoric evidently serves as a potent recruiting tool. Too bad it’s completely bogus.

Yes, there are some of the Sixties generation who tuned in, turned on, and then made a U-turn in the middle of Main Street to become some of the greediest, most soulless people on the planet. But a few rotten apples did not spoil the whole barrel. The rest of us accomplished amazing things for which we have yet to receive any credit.

To you newbies dissing the Boomers, shut the f*** up and think about this: that yoga meditation that you enjoy? We brought you that. Your baby delivered by a midwife? We gave you that. Those organic salad greens you just bought at your local supermarket? Yeah, us.

The reason you male members of the Bernie True Believers haven’t been drafted and sent to the Middle East with a rifle in your hand is that we forced an end to the draft. We were the generation that lost nearly sixty thousand of our brothers and lovers in Vietnam and spilled our own blood in the streets to make it stop.

You female members of the Bernie True Believers are empowered to be out there on the streets with your political action groups largely because we burned our bras and filled university and government buildings with our sit-ins demanding equal pay and equal rights. We didn’t settle for an apron and dust mop. We elbowed our way into the mainstream.

We pushed our reproductive agenda and got a Supreme Court ruling legalizing abortion. We celebrated our freedom to choose with new technology like birth control pills, so that whatever child was born was a wanted child. We pushed aside the obstetricians with their convenient forceps deliveries and anesthetized mothers and birthed our babies into darkened rooms where the fathers were part of the experience. You were floated in warm baths and held to our breasts in a revolution of childbirth every bit as radical as any Bernie slogan.

We demanded clean food free of pesticides and additives and organized our own food cooperatives. We trucked in hard-to-find organic produce and flour. Many of us went back to the land to raise organic beef and grow our own gardens where our children could eat fresh peas straight off the vine.

We cast aside centuries of misogynist religion to embrace the greater spiritual power of the Universe. Did you think your yoga studio appeared out of the Fifties like Athena sprang from the forehead of Zeus? No—we traveled to India. We read the books. We followed the gurus in order to reframe our embrace of the Divine.

We shared our dorm rooms, our jobs, and our farms with gay men and lesbians, strenghtened their public arrival with our acceptance in spite of the brutality that they encountered in the rest of society. We opened our homes to African Americans and other minorities and joined in their protests. We saw all people as our kinsmen.

We are the reason you can access acupuncture and Asian medicine, holistic practitioners, therapeutic massage, and the proliferation of alternative medicines that spread before you today like a feast-laden table. We sought out health in a world filled with sickness, in world where ‘medicine’ fulfilled all we knew about healing.

We took our children to protests, meetings, and hearings. You played outside in the sunshine while we stuffed envelopes and called friends. We changed the world without social media or computers.

We sacrificed days, weeks, even years of our lives in the fight to save our forests and oceans, our waterways and air from pollution. We fought for the whales and the wolves. We wrote letters, stood in cold wind and glaring sun with our signs, took up residence in trees. The environmental protection you may take for granted came about because of us.

We had help from older generations. Some of them fought to the end just like us. We’re still fighting. Many Baby Boomers are active in Bernie’s campaign.

Whatever disconnect exists between what the Boomers accomplished and the platform from which you launch your tirade is not because the Boomers failed. The disconnect derives from the same power brokers who manipulate every new generation into following certain paths. We called it The Man, The Machine. Their message? If you want the new car, the nice house, all the toys, then you’ll toe the line. Pass the drug tests. Conform.

The history of any war is written by the victors. In the still-simmering culture wars, the corporations want you to see us as the enemy. You have to dig deep to uncover the fullness of what I’ve said here in a few words. You want to change the world? Join the club.

Just keep in mind that because Bernie says all the right things doesn’t mean he’ll lead you to victory. Maybe you’ve never heard about our work for McGovern, walking door to door, keeping faith that we could usher in a New Age. In 1968, we never saw Daly’s henchmen coming or the disaster that would befall the Democrats as a result of that convention. We didn’t anticipate the backlash, all the haters and religionists ready to answer the clarion call of the corporate machine. We invested our future in the hope and change promised by Democrats and watched in horror as Richard Nixon won two terms.

Maybe you never understood what happened to our next great hope, Jimmy Carter. It’s instructive to review how he lost to Ronald Reagan:

  • Carter later wrote that the most intense and mounting opposition to his policies came from the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, which he attributed to Ted Kennedy’s ambition to replace him as president. Kennedy surprised his supporters by running a weak campaign, and Carter won most of the primaries and secured renomination. However, Kennedy had mobilized the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, which gave Carter weak support in the fall election. (Wiki)

Or the loss of Al Gore not because George W. Bush was such a stunning candidate, but because the Democratic left wing blindly flew to support Ralph Nader and his pie in the sky oblivious to the very real possibility that by splitting the progressive vote, a Republican would win. Perhaps some of this language will sound familiar to Bernie fans:

  • Nader’s campaign rejected both parties as institutions dominated by corporate interests, stating that Al Gore and George W. Bush were “Tweedledee and Tweedledum.” A long list of notable celebrities spoke [in his favor]. The campaign also had some prominent union help… (Wiki)

FYI, that could happen again. All the visceral emotion you’re feeling now about us, about Hillary as our ‘representative,’ you’re feeling that for more reasons than you may realize. For over two decades it’s been the Republican end game against a woman they’ve always known could be a successful president.

If their first-wave tactics work, you’ll bring Bernie a successful nomination. Then they’ll begin their second wave, this time against Bernie: Socialism. Higher Taxes. Universal Healthcare. Lions, tigers and bears, oh my! In November, a Republican candidate will win.

You may live in a bubble where pot is legal, polyamory is accepted, and social progress is a straight line from here to there, but you haven’t faced the reality that 70% of the population still identifies as Christian. A third of those folks are evangelical, meaning they will show up and they will vote no matter what you do. They are the active force behind the Republicans, agitated and directed by the corporate money masters.

Your disdain for the Baby Boomers is the result of their careful plan. You like Bernie? So do I. Want to make him president? Go for it. Just keep in mind that if Hillary wins the Democratic nomination, you’ll have a choice. If the Machine is successful, you’ll be so angry at the Boomer generation and Hillary in particular, you’ll not vote for anyone but Bernie.

By indulging your cleverly fomented rage and refusing to support a Democratic candidate other than Bernie, you will play right into the hands of the machine. Another Nixon-Reagan-Bush waits in the wings.

So cultivate your anger with knowledge. Wake up to the real history of the Boomer generation. We had big hopes too. But just because all our goals weren’t completely met doesn’t mean we’ve failed. We’ve moved the ball forward. We welcome you to the fight.

But don’t forget–we’re not the enemy.

The American Way

Is it really any surprise that so much in our nation has devolved into violence? We did this to ourselves. This is our legacy.

We set foot on American shores and through violence eradicated the bulk of the indigenous population. We justified our killing with belief in our superiority, our ‘divine right’ to the land and its resources. Unlike the Natives, we carried a Bible and guns so we concluded God wanted us to have it. Might makes right.

Since the beginning, our westward migration progressed under the rationale that we ‘discovered’ gold and silver, ‘harvested’ virgin timber and furs, and settled the ‘wild’ lands. We wrested wealth from the soil by enslaving not only the surviving Natives but imported Africans and Asians. These ‘lesser’ creatures deserved to be subdued just as a work animal yearns for the yoke. They should thank us.

All to the glory of God, who showed us the path to our greatness.

In truth, our nation became rich not because we’re so clever or God’s chosen people but because we stumbled onto a pristine continent. The world’s civilizations had not risen here, had not built their empires, waged their wars, suffered plague and famine here. The Americas weren’t like the rest of the world’s continents, already ravaged by millennia of man’s turmoil.

We Europeans who invaded this land became rich through accidental opportunity, theft, and violence.

And when the land had been conquered, when the virgin forests had been cut and the hillsides left to erode, when the gold and silver had been mined and the waste pits left to leach impurities into the streams, when the frontier came to a screeching halt at the Pacific shore, we turned on ourselves.

With our eye on the prize, we killed anyone who got in our way. Natives, former slaves, immigrants, those too poor or too weak to stand up for themselves—they were cast to the edges to starve. Or lynched. Taught their place away from our table.

Then the mid-twentieth century arrived with its transformative movements on behalf of the poor, the Black and Native, the handicapped, the gay, and the women, all the people whose subjugation had enabled the white patriarchy to herald its God-given triumph.

The power structure reeled in shock.

Assassinations followed. And the war on drugs, a less obvious form of assassination. It wasn’t drugs that subsequently filled our prisons. It wasn’t drugs who became disenfranchised and even more marginalized. Drugs were the tool, the label selectively wielded against those who threatened the system.

For many in the underclass, the black market in drugs became the only means to reach for the American dream. The bait. The wealth of those markets and the inherent lack of regulation led to the current open warfare in our inner cities. In our war against our own people, we have set our law enforcement against our neighborhoods. We have armed them with military weapons and tactics. We have hidden behind our curtains as they firebombed apartment buildings and battered in doors.

We chose to ignore what we’d learned from alcohol prohibition, that such policies not only failed in their stated intent but also gave rise to even worse consequences. We knew that tax dollars invested in education, in mental health care, and in social support would eventually pay dividends in a healthier more vibrant society. Not prisons. Not guns.

We turned away from what we knew because we were taught fear by those with their own agendas—wealth and power at any cost. Fear higher taxes. Fear the government. Fear programs that help the poor.

Everything we should have gladly given became ‘taken.’

What if we hoard all the guns that can be made? What if our barns, our spare bedrooms, bristle with automatic weapons and crates of ammunition? Does that make us safe?

Safe from whom? From the random madman who lurks unknown in suburbia until the day he pulls the trigger? How will you know today is the day, the school is the place, that you should appear with your loaded gun in hand? None of the mass shootings of the last thirty years have been stopped by an armed citizen.

Safe from gangs roaming the dark streets of a declining city? Why bother? They’re killing each other by the hundreds.

From the government? Obviously you haven’t thought this through. Your spare room arsenal, your heavily armed survival shelter, will last about one nanosecond once the U. S. military decides you’re the target. If the Apache helicopters with Hellfire missiles don’t pound you, the fighter jets, Abrams tanks, and missiles launched from drones surely will. Get over yourself.

Now that we’ve had this friendly chat, can you calm down long enough to talk reason? Let go of the gun. Come, let us sit together.

Poor things, we have become islands of fear. We suffer existential crisis. Torn from our historical and biological roots, we are caught up in a world of machines and corporations. We don’t know our neighbors. Our communities have shrunk to a small circle of friends. We are beleaguered, lonely, and overwhelmed.

We need naps after lunch, long walks in nature, communion around campfires. We haven’t evolved fast enough to keep up with the culture. We’re not ready to travel sixty miles an hour.

We are physically ill—overweight, strung out on prescription drugs, anxious, and undernourished. What we take into our mouths becomes our energy, our blood, our skin. Yet much of our food is short on nutrition and long on adulterants. How can we think clearly or feel anything but cornered with flavored dross in our veins? We use caffeine to put one foot in front of the other.

In this melting pot of a nation, we cling to rituals that have lost their meaning. There’s no passage in our rites of teenage drunkenness, no ‘arrival’ in our coming of age. What is our totem, our spirit guide? Our ceremonies are shells of their former meaning dolled up in slick packages.

Even now, after all this, we have the opportunity to evolve. Live up to our dream. Turn away from our violent past and join together in creating solutions to all that ails us.

We don’t have to create armed camps in our midst. We don’t have to teach our young that violence is the solution. We’ve been too lazy to learn and think, too distracted to look beyond our television. Too eager to label and blame the Other for problems we’ve brought onto ourselves.

Too damn busy trying to stay afloat. Trying to have it all.

Can we save the dream of our nation? Is it too late to make love not war? Too late to treat our neighbors as ourselves? Let’s invest our energy and resources in solutions–interventions for those teetering on the edge of mental illness, for disrupted families and children. Pour our money into schools and teachers, not prisons and guards. Free health clinics in every community with counseling for anyone who walks in the door–that day, that moment. Not after someone brings in proof of income and household bills, not after a two week wait.

We embrace delusions of a past that never was. We got lucky. We got spoiled. We want too much and if we can’t have it, it’s somebody else’s fault. The immigrant’s fault that we can’t buy a new car. The poor man’s fault that our groceries cost so much. The gay man’s fault that our marriage failed.

The police are not yet a force unto themselves but they’re moving closer, fed by fear. Their job is to enforce the laws. The laws are not made by the police. They are made by our elected representatives. Our. Elected. Representatives.

Us.

The free ride is over. The trees are cut, the gold nuggets found. The frontier lies within.