Here we are Again

This morning as I felt Baby Girl squirming & kicking in my belly, I fought back tears for the mothers who lost their babies yesterday. 20 children were murdered at Sandy Hook and we did nothing. How many were murdered yesterday? Will we continue to do nothing? Will this, yet another mass shooting at a house of worship, finally be the straw that breaks our back? Will we fight for change?

Or will we continue to bow to the almighty NRA and allow gun manufacturers and sellers to dictate where our children are safe. Which, apparently, is nowhere.

There will be far too many funerals, again.
Thoughts and prayers, again.
Then what? What comes next?

Do we continue to blame mental illness while stripping away healthcare for mental illness? Do we ignore the fact that another AR-15 was used (again). Do we sit back and continue to wonder how a person convicted of domestic violence was able to legally purchase a gun? Do we dissect his life inch by inch looking for a motive or trigger? Or do we finally pull the trigger and realize that we cannot continue to allow single gunmen armed with assault riffles, bullets and the Second Amendment to steal lives?

We’ve been idle and complacent for too long. This cannot continue. We will close borders over a terrorist attack. We build barriers after a pickup runs down bicyclists. We take our shoes off after a lone shoe bombing attempt. We limit cold medicine after a meth epidemic.

But, 377 mass shootings in less than a year and the GOP and NRA hide behind money and the Second Amendment, so we throw our hands up. And mothers continue burying their babies. Husbands say goodbye to wives. Communities lose members. Churches, concerts, movie theaters, schools, malls, Walmarts all become graveyards of our incompetency.

Enough is enough. It’s time to do something. If we fail to act THIS TIME we fail our country and our citizens. We fail our children. We fail. We lose. Is that enough motivation for your ego, Trump? We are losers if we fail to do something to stop this. We cannot and will it continue as a nation if it is acceptable to murder children and families.

By refusing to act, we are saying this is acceptable. It’s that simple. If we do nothing, we, yet again, confirm that no human life matters. We once again put metal and bullets above the sanctity of human life. Is that who we are, America?

The Price of Being Female

You can’t be outraged by Harvey Weinstein and then be totally okay with Donald Trump. Or vice versa. Either you’re pissed or you’re complicit. End of story.

Was that clear enough? I am disgusted by both and I could not care less which party is involved or whose narrative is validated by either man. Both are trolls. Sexual assault and sexual harassment are wrong and it does not matter who committed the acts. Does it suck when it is someone you once admired, yes. Does that change or somehow validate what they did, no.

Being a woman means this nonsense is a part of your every day life – a casual comment, an inappropriate glance or gesture, a hug that lingers uncomfortably long, an unwelcome touch. It happens every freaking day and if we bring it up, we are often told “Oh, I am sure it was nothing.” But, it is not nothing. It is never nothing.

What’s worse is almost every woman I know has a story of unwanted sexual advances, contact, harassment or comments. Most of us have several stories.

One that still haunts me happened early in my professional career that I am still not comfortable talking about in detail or at length. I had been at the job less than a year and was on a two-night trip with one of our vice presidents. It was my opportunity to prove that I was capable of doing my job (something he often questioned due to my appearance, age and gender) and at first I was excited at the opportunity. A co-worker told me “he will try to sleep with you” when I mentioned the trip to him, but I blew it off. I shouldn’t have.

There’s a lot of things I should have known in that situation … I should have recognized the danger in accepting a second drink … I should have heard the undertones in his request that we review the following day’s agenda in his hotel room … I should have run when he bragged about his sexual conquests outside of his marriage … I should have known that his position of power over me would give him the advantage. I should have listened to my friend and kept his warning in the back of my mind. But I didn’t do any of these things because I naively trusted him and was eager to prove that I could keep up and that I was worth my weight in my career. I should have seen through the BS and seen the situation for what it was. But, I didn’t. Instead I found myself in a situation where I felt both threatened and trapped and I blamed myself.

This is a position that so many women find themselves in every single day because their superior found them too attractive to maintain control and where they feel entitled to something that was never theirs to begin with. This is the very problem – far too many men feel as though women owe them something. We don’t. We don’t owe you anything – not a response to your text, not a yes to sex after a date. We aren’t yours to own or control or to do with as you please.

Thankfully, I was able to get out of the situation, but our work relationship never recovered and I never spoke up. I should have.

Here’s the thing about harassment in the workplace – women have everything to lose by saying no or by reporting the incident. Men have little to lose and often have the upper hand being in a position of power. Women that come forward are often retaliated against, which discourages other women from coming forward as well. This is why men like Trump and Weinstein are able to maintain decades of harassment and assault. Their positions of power act as a shield and they can silence the voices of women.

One (of the many) thing(s) that blows my mind about this whole Weinstein story is how many people are acting outraged that women did not speak up sooner. Why didn’t they? Their careers and livelihoods were threatened. Their credibility was threatened. They didn’t feel anyone would believe them and yet now everyone is holding them accountable for the acts committed that they “could have stopped.” But, who would have listened to them? How many of them did speak up and lost work because of it or were silenced?

This just one of the prices of being female – having a responsibility of speaking up, even though it can cost us everything and no one is likely to listen or believe us.

When is Enough, Enough?

This morning I woke to notifications that friends had marked themselves safe in the “Violent Attack in Las Vegas.” I blinked the sleep away from my eyes and reread the update, then immediately opened Twitter and CNN to find out what had happened.

The first update I saw said two killed. Then twenty. Now more than fifty. Over 200 injured. One lone gunman.

Let that sink in – ONE person stole the lives of more than 50 innocent men, women and children and forever impacted the lives of hundreds more. One man and his gun (or guns) carried out what is now the largest mass shooting in recent history.

The 2016 shooting at Pulse in Orlando previously held this horrific record. Just over a year later, another lone wolf, as the media calls it, changed that statistic.

Twelve people in Aurora. Twenty children and six adults in Sandy Hook. Nine in Charleston. Forty-nine young men and women in Orlando. Today, more than fifty in Las Vegas. All of these lives stolen in places we visit every day and places where we are seeking to learn, escape reality, bond, worship – movie theaters, schools, churches, nightclubs, festivals.

Each of these acts of terror was carried out by one person with a gun. One person. Mass fatalities and injuries.

And yet, what are we talking about after each and every one? The person behind the gun. We focus on what they did and why, which barely a mention of how. Not more than a passing word on just how easy it was for them to carry out such horrific acts.

It’s almost as if we value the metal and gun powder that took these lives than the lives themselves. How could this be true in a country that touts its family values and pro-life movement as hallmarks of its religious and moral obligations?

When do we finally say enough and take action to prevent these tragedies? When do we stand up and say our children’s lives matter more than someone’s right to own a gun and bullets? How many more have to die before we realize we are fighting the wrong fight? Is it when a lone gunman kills 50? 100? 200? Is it when it happens are your church? Your school? Your concert? Your movie?

Enough is enough.

Fabric, Lyrics & Patriotism

It’s not about the Flag.
It’s not about the Anthem.
It’s not about the Pledge.
It’s not about Football, Basketball, Baseball or any sport.

It’s about Racism.
It’s about innocent lives lost in senseless violence.
It’s about systematic police brutality against unarmed black men, women and children.
It’s about someone thinking they have the right to tell others how to express their rights.

Honestly, the fact that we even have to have this conversation is exactly why #TakeAKnee matters. When you marginalize the protest and the voices of those that are speaking out because they are marginalized all you have accomplished is proving their protest is valid, needed and warranted.

Let’s be real here, your problem isn’t with your perceived disrespecting of the flag – a flag is a piece of fabric and cannot be disrespected, same for a song or a pledge. Your problem is that you cannot believe they have the audacity to speak out and say that “hey you know what? America isn’t great.” Which, is deliciously ironic considering you championed a candidate who campaigned on America not being great. Only, his problem was in our diversity and their problem is in an inequity of rights and treatment because of their diversity.

Sure it is important to show respect for our country, but when our country doesn’t show respect in return and proves over and over again that your life and the lives of your children do not matter, there is no choice but to speak out and take a stand. We owe it to our country and the principles on which we were founded to fight back and demand that the rights of all Americans are protected, not just those that agree with you. And yes, you do have the right to speak your opinion – but when your opinion aims to silence or harm someone else’s rights, you not only are a hypocrite, but you’re abusing your rights.

For everyone screaming that “this isn’t the place for protest” – How would you like them to protest? They can’t march. They can’t speak on social media. They can’t speak out on TV. They can’t kneel. What do you deem acceptable form of protest?

Our flag isn’t our nation. It is a symbol. Our nation exists in the people that live here – whether born here or not. These men kneeling are taking part in the very elements that created our country, though their protest is far more peaceful than say, the Boston Tea Party. They are living the constitution and they are using their voices and peaceful protest to speak up for those that can no longer speak because their lives were violently and senseless stolen.

Standing for the flag, anthem or pledge doesn’t make you an American and it isn’t a measure of your patriotism. How you stand for your country and fellow citizens is the true measure of your patriotism, which by the way is not a contest. We all stand differently, that’s part of what truly makes us great.

Ignoring the real reason for the protest is a symptom of the very problem.

Being color blind isn’t the answer either – we cannot ignore the differences that make us who we are. That just marginalizes people and their heritage. What we need to do is fully embrace, understand and welcome everyone regardless of their race, religion, ethnicity, gender, country of origin, etc. Being tolerant or blind isn’t enough, it’s part of the problem.

A Livable Wage

Every once in a while I see a quote from a politician that is just so awful I cannot even fathom for a second that it is true (i.e. “grab ’em by the pussy”). That was my exact reaction when I saw a meme with this quote pop up in my news feed over and over again:

“This is an example of the fundamental difference between a liberal and a conservative. I do not support a livable wage.” -Karen Handel, GOP Candidate GA6

So, I Googled and there it was. On video. I nodded in agreement as I listened to Jon Ossoff’s answer, a carefully crafted and perfectly sensible answer (he supports a living wage, but with increases paced to allow small business time to adapt and change without hurting their business) that fits the progressive narrative that I believe in as a marketer working for one of those businesses that would be gutted with an overnight increase to $15 per hour.

Then Karen Handel opened her mouth and uttered those now infamous words. At least she was honest? At least she nailed the very different between the right and the left on the head. The difference they adamantly deny when they insist that they are the party of the working class (laughable at best). But, there it was plain as day. The GOP does not support a living/livable wage. Why? Because they place the needs of businesses and corporations above the needs of the people that vote them into office. They place money before people and party before country.

The answer Ossoff gave provides a perfect balance of being pro business and pro people – yes, a living wage is needed and yes a plan that doesn’t hurt small business is needed as well. There is a way to balance both of these needs and he nailed it.

For far too long, we on the left have allowed the loud mouths on the right to dictate the narrative on who we as Democrats are and what we stand for. The GOP has taking our platform and twisted it to fit the fear mongering narrative that works so very well for them. They’ve found a way to capitalize on the fears and gullibility of voters and they use it each and every election cycle and it works just as beautifully as they had hoped.

We support a woman’s right to choose and we are baby killers. We support access to affordable healthcare and we are communists and socialists (which, they really should look up the definitions of both those words before they use them). We support sensible gun laws and suddenly we want to raid your homes and rip away your guns. We support a living wage and are anti-business.

None of these are true. Not one. And, we have to take back this narrative. Karen Handel has given us the perfect opportunity to do this. Her very words are the epitome of everything wrong with the GOP trying to take on the status of a party for American workers. Every single policy the GOP supports for businesses does not benefit small business, they are designed to continue lining the pockets of the largest corporations – diminishing Dodd-Frank helps big banks, but does nothing for small banks and credit unions. Rolling back anti-trust and anti-monopoly laws hurts small business trying to compete against the giants. And, not a single one of these help support American workers.

We saw how little these policies helped the American working and middle class in the 1980s under trickle down and Reaganomics. Not. One. Bit. The rich got richer. The poor got poorer. The middle class declined and is facing outright extinction.

Supporting a living wage is pro-business and it is pro-worker. Period.

It’s Not Guilt, It’s Humanity

Reducing my demand for equality to what you refer to as “white guilt” proves only one thing: you don’t understand what equality means.

  1. the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, and opportunities.

By definition, equality itself removes the added barrier of so-called “white guilt.” In a society with true equality, which the United States has not achieved, the lines of race, sex, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, etc. simply do not exist and nullify the argument that a desire for equality is caused by an underlying feeling of guilt. In reality, guilt exists in the absence of equality.

I don’t fight for and stand up for equality because of guilt, I do it because it is right. As human beings, we should all start with the same chances and our shot at success and happiness should not be tied to definitions beyond our control. Further, as human beings we should see beyond the physical characterizations as we look to our fellow persons. We shouldn’t use the things we see as a way to persecute or judge others.

That’s not to say that privileges don’t exist for those born looking and believing a certain way – until we have true equality, privilege is a reality. And, recognizing this privilege is a crucial component of achieving equality. Until we can see and admit to the injustices caused by this privilege and inequality, we cannot expect to ever move forward. Recognizing this isn’t symptom of guilt, it’s a side effect of being observant to the world around you.

We are all in this together, whether we like it (or each other) or not.

What are we Fighting for?

Reading through 45’s budget proposal is like taking a punch in the gut. Putting America first should be about putting Americans first and that isn’t done by cutting funding for programs that millions of our most vulnerable depend on.

My career is in restaurant marketing and much of my business and people experience is in this arena, so it’s nearly impossible for me not to draw parallels between what I see inside our four walls and the outside world. My reaction to this “America First” budget was no different.

In the restaurant industry, as with any other service-based industry that employs minimum wage workers, the best way to engage and motivate your employees to perform is by supporting them – you lift them up and encourage them. What doesn’t work? Overworking and underpaying them while taking away the few things that make their jobs enjoyable. Every company aims to provide a fun and safe work environment. Why? Because it improves morale, which in turn improves productivity. That’s how you drive the bottom line.

These proposed budget cuts would do exactly those things that don’t work – they take away programs aimed at providing Americans with the most basic of needs on Maslow’s hierarchy – food, shelter, security. Without these most basic physiological needs, humans cannot be productive members of society. If you’re hungry and worried about where your next meal is coming from, you cannot study or work. You cannot be productive at work or school if you don’t have proper shelter or a place to rest and feel safe.

There are certain people that will scream that these people in need should just pull themselves up by their bootstraps and work harder. But, these people lack a basic understanding of humanity – if you do not have boots, you cannot pull yourself up by your bootstraps.

Dear Sen. Corker & Sen. Alexander

This morning I awoke to the news that you voted to remove the protections of those with pre-existing conditions. As a woman with asthma, I spent much of my twenties without access to inhalers and preventative medicine. I’d often find myself scrounging change for OTC medicines that made my heart race and rarely solved the problem. Now, as a mother of an 18 month old son recently diagnosed with asthma, I am terrified for the future. Just last month, we spent two nights in the hospital watching him struggling to breath. We had to hold him down and force him to breath in albuterol from a nebulizer. We listened to his lungs fighting to breath – the wheezing loud enough to be heard over the noise of a busy hospital. His chest rising and falling with so much force as he struggled that the skin around his neck collapsed with every breath.

My son, 18 months old, doesn’t understand what is going on. But, he knows that Mama and Dada are there and they are going to make this all better. I fear with the removal of these protections, that we will not.

We are fortunate to have wonderful, affordable insurance through my husband’s employer and we have the financial means to purchase this insurance. A luxury we do not take for granted, but it is also a luxury that we could lose at any time. In the event that happens, my son and myself could be denied coverage or driven into a dire financial situation as we are gouged with insurance rates. Or worse, forced to chose between putting food on the table and buying an overpriced inhaler from American pharmacies at a rate 10 or 20 times what our Canadian family members pay. Why? So the cat can get fatter.

I’d love to send you a photo of my son and the millions of children just like him. Or the children who survived cancer or are diagnosed with diabetes. Or my photo or one of the millions of moms just like me. Or the mother fighting breast cancer. We fight every single day to provide the basic needs to our families only to watch wealthy businessmen and pork barreled senators laugh and gloat as the pull back the healthcare we so desperately need. We elected you into office so you could represent and protect us, and yet, you throw us to the wolves.

As you continue your fight to rip healthcare from millions of Americans, I ask that you think about the faces of the children of Tennessee – the ones you just told they don’t matter. Can you look them in the eyes and tell them their health isn’t worth a second thought? Can you look their mothers and fathers in the eye and tell them the lobbyists and their PACs loaded with campaign contributions are more valuable than the life of their child?

As you go to sleep tonight and close your eyes, I hope you see all of our faces. I hope you know that we are watching and paying attention. We see your votes and we are holding you accountable.

Paul Ryan: The Way Forward

I live in a self-created liberal bubble. I have intentionally surrounded myself with like minded or a-political friends, with few exceptions. Rarely do I seek out those with thoughts different from my own, unless I am looking to prove a point or start a debate.

After the disaster that was 2016, I realized I needed to expand my horizons and widen my thought bubble. In doing so, I sought out to find a book that was from a current thought leader on the Right. I chose Paul Ryan because I cannot stomach a Donald Trump book. While I know Ryan is not a true representation of Trump’s Republican party, he is a leader and one I would consider to be more representative of the Conservative way of thinking.

My goal was to listen to this book with an open mind to gain insight into Ryan and the Conservative agenda. I knew there would be liberal bashing and expected harsh words on President Obama. I was not disappointed. However, I was disappointed in the tone taken. The criticism of President Obama was done in a manner that appeared to be whining. He called POTUS a bully and a heartless politician pushing an agenda, which isn’t unique to POTUS. Ryan didn’t come across as a man offering constructive criticism of the president. Instead, he sounded like a child whose big brother didn’t let him ride along on his date.

Digging deeper into the book, Ryan did address the Conservative agenda and provide his ideas for solutions. A common theme, privatization. Rather than work to fix government institutions and alleviate the bureaucratic problems, his goal would be to have all government agencies and citizen safety nets outsourced to private companies – education, Social Security, Medicare, Healthcare, etc. I don’t disagree with his assessment of the issues we face, but I don’t agree with his shortsighted approach to solving them. We cannot, as a society, in good conscious send all of our public programs to private entities where profit will become the driving factor. Our citizens deserve better.

Herein lies the key difference in the Right and the Left. The Right focuses first on finances and second on people. The Left focuses first on people and second on finances. Which one is the correct way to run our country? The answer isn’t a clear cut right or left answer and we have to find balance. Ryan discusses this in his book, but in doing so he asserts that the Conservative agenda is the only clear choice to solving America’s issues. He doesn’t seek to understand the Left and he doesn’t care to incorporate its beliefs and values into his plans.

Ryan is also a devout Catholic and he inserts his beliefs very heavily into the book. I feel he may have missed the separation of Church and State portion of the Constitution. And that whole First Amendment piece on freedom of religion. I can respect a man’s beliefs, but I cannot respect his desire to impose those beliefs on a free nation.

My final takeaway -Ryan is clear in his mission, push the Conservative agenda at all costs. He does not believe Liberals have anything to offer. He does clearly have a passion for his country, but falls short on compassion for people. He talks about the poor and minorities in an abstract way. He brags about going out on tours to visit poor cities and talk to the poor. His solutions are about bringing back the dignity of work and he does address the issues that for some, getting ahead isn’t as simple as pulling up your bootstraps. But those rare moments of understanding are overshadowed by his simplistic solution of privatization.

I still have a great deal of work to do on expanding my bubble. I often found myself arguing with the narrator. Listening to Ryan’s book was step one. Step two is researching some of the works he referenced as the guiding principles of the Conservative movement.

Cory Booker: United

My post election hangover/funk deepened a little as I dove into Bernie’s book. I wanted to continue my path down political awareness, but also wanted something inspiring and positive. Enter Cory Booker – the eternally positive US Senator from New Jersey. I’ve followed him on Facebook for a few years and his posts are always a bright spot in the sea of news and depression.

His book did not disappoint.

Booker grew up in a solid middle class family with both him mom and dad. They fought to buy a home in a white suburb in New Jersey so he and his brother could attend good schools and his parents could commute to their jobs at IBM. He went on to get an Ivy League education and became a lawyer. His faith and personal beliefs led him to a desire to work in an impoverished community where he could make a difference.

His book details the stories of his experiences living in Brick Towers in Newark, his journey into politics and to the US Senate. The stores, while originating in Newark, are not unique to the city. All across America, minorities and those living in poverty face these realities on a daily basis. Booker offers insights and hope through his passion for helping others. He weaves in some politics as he discusses his ideas for solutions, but the majority of the book is nonpartisan, as we can all relate to and see the need to address these struggles facing Americans of all walks of life.

At times, the stories brought me to tears. But, Booker always brought hope back into the fold, not matter how depressing or solemn the story. Booker is the kind of politician America needs – passionate but pragmatic. He is idealistic, but he also takes and calls for action – a thinker and a doer. He sees people for who they are and his desire to help isn’t just a facade, it is genuine.