Diversity Strengthens; Xenophobia Weakens

Xenophobia is the fear or dislike of people from other countries. In this nation, it has always been said that we welcome all, but do we really? Or, should I say, do we still? Take a minute to read and think about Jerry’s words here … I think our nation is richer for the diversity that we have, don’t you?

On The Fence Voters

The arrival of coronavirus has many on Americans edge, and rightfully so. While most focus on what they can do to protect themselves and their loved ones from the virus, others are pointing accusing fingers at whomever they believe to be responsible for the virus’s outbreak and spread. On Fox News shows one can listen to various Trump-inspired conservatives accuse the Chinese, North Koreans, and even liberal Americans.

Yes, we need careful screening of international travelers and, at times, even temporary travel bans. But the truth is that no one knows for sure where or how the coronavirus began its invasion. We may never know for certain. At this point, all we can know for certain is that on a planet dramatically contracted by modern travel methods, viruses hitch rides and quickly attack even remote locations. Localized virus outbreaks are a thing of the past.

But that won’t stop modern-day…

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separation of church and state

Separation of church and state … a simple concept, right? The government will not support one religion over any other. And yet, as Larry tells us, down in Florida (and other places as well) they are attempting to do just that, by trying to pass legislation that would make the study of the Christian bible mandatory in schools. What about Jews? Muslims? Atheists? Hindus? This nation is only about 70% Christian, so … why should they dominate? Please take a few minutes to read Larry’s excellent post. Thank you, Larry, for permission to share your work!

lpb - quest

Living as a Democrat in rural, Republican Florida challenges one’s sense of inclusiveness and social propriety.  A recent controversy in local politics regarding funding our library’s request to make the New York Times available online to library cardholders is a case in point. My friend at BY HOOK OR BY BOOK has shared a great post regarding this issue.  It is indicative of a population which refuses to leave the 1950s.

On Florida’s horizon is a bill filed by a State Senator which would require courses be made available in our public schools at taxpayers’ expense providing studies of the Bible.  The following is the letter which I have submitted to our local newspaper.

State Senator Dennis Baxley, a Republican representing the Ocala region, has filed SB 746 to be considered during the 2020 legislative session. The bill would require courses providing studies of the Bible’s Old and New Testaments…

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A number of things in the news caught my eye today, made me shake my head, roll my eyes, and say … You have got to be kidding me!!!  Five years ago, most of what we see in the news today would have been unthinkable … it would have seemed like the thoughts of somebody with an overactive imagination … on steroids!  But today, the world that could never be … is.  Is it here to stay?  I think that pretty much depends on us.  We better figure it out soon, though.

The headline reads …

Men and Christians experience higher amounts of discrimination than other groups, Trump voters claim

…more than women, LGBTQ people, Muslims, or non-white people.

And I said … Say WHAT???

How often do you hear of an unarmed white male being shot multiple times until dead by a cop?  How often, really, do you even hear white males called ‘honky’? How often do people call the police on white males just because they were walking down the street, or swimming in a pool? How often are white males denied service in a bakery, restaurant or hardware store?

According to a recent and fairly extensive survey by YouGov and The Economist, people who voted for Trump believed that Christian males were the most likely to be discriminated against.  More so than women, African-Americans, Hispanics, and even LGBT people.

75% of democrats said that white people have it easier than other races, while only 20% of republicans thought that to be the case.  45% of democrats said that Christians have it easier, but only 11% of republicans. When asked about the level of discrimination against Arab-Americans, 56% of democrats felt it was significant, while only 17% of republicans saw it that way.  And when it came to discrimination against African-Americans, 61% of democrats felt the level of discrimination was high, while only 10% of republicans believed it.

This was an interesting survey, covering a wide variety of topics from how other countries are perceived, to how effective the response to Hurricane Michael was to gun control, LGBT rights, the economy, and more.  Thus far, I have only viewed a few topics, but as you can see, it would appear that republicans and democrats view the world through an entirely different set of lenses.  Perhaps this is part of our problem?

Here is a Trump tweet that has everybody rolling in the aisles …Trump lying tweetAnd this comes just one day after Mitch McConnell promises/threatens to renew the attempt to repeal ACA immediately following the mid-term elections next month!  Methinks the first person da prez needs to talk to is ol’ Mitchie!

Twenty republican-led states have filed a lawsuit claiming that the ‘pre-existing conditions’ clause is unconstitutional, and the Department of Justice is supporting that view.  And just last week, 50 Republican senators approved the Trump administration’s expansion of health plans that can deny coverage to people with pre-exiting medical conditions.

President Trump Healthcare Press Conference

Ha ha ha ha ha ha

So, just what alternative universe did Trump wake up in yesterday morning???  It’s bad enough that he is a rotten president who cares not a whit for the people of this nation, but when he thinks we are so stupid that we cannot see the lie, the utter insanity in his words?

Remember back in May 2017 out in Montana when the republican candidate for the House of Representatives, Greg Gianforte, beat a reporter for The Guardian with his fists for simply asking a question, doing his job?  Gianforte won the election anyway and now sits in the House.  That was 17 months ago, but last night at a rally in Montana, Donald Jerk Trump brought it up again, praising … yes praising … Gianforte for his actions!

“We endorsed Greg very early. But I heard that he body-slammed a reporter. This was the day of the election or just before, and I thought, ‘Oh, this is terrible! He’s going to lose the election.’ And then I said, ‘Wait a minute, I know Montana pretty well, I think it might help him.’ And it did. He’s a great guy. Tough cookie. Greg is smart. And by the way, never wrestle him. You understand. Never.”

And the crowd cheered.  Need I say more?

Folks, the state of this nation is the worst it has been in my lifetime.  I have lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Cold War, the war in Vietnam, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the Civil Rights movement, the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, and much more.  But even during those events, I never felt that the country wouldn’t be alright in the long run, never felt the sense of hopelessness that I feel today.  I never felt that half the people were so determined to destroy all that was ever good about the U.S. This nation is a runaway train heading for a long downhill stretch with a treacherous curve somewhere in the middle, and the train is without an engineer.  Instead, there is a madman posing as the engineer and half the people on the train are blind and deaf.  It is past time that we stand firm and say, “ENOUGH!”

Do you have standing?

I have often questioned why some people think they have the right to inflict their beliefs on others, why it matters to others who someone falls in love with, what their religion is or for that matter whether they have one. The short answer is that it shouldn’t, and legally, it doesn’t. Our friend Keith has stated this case far better than I could have, so today I am sharing Keith’s words of wisdom with you. Thank you, Keith, for this excellent post!


Do you have standing? What does that mean? It is a legal term that asks whether you are personally impacted by what you perceive as a slight.

Before the US Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage was a protected right, it first ruled on California’s Proposition 8. This state law banned gays and lesbians from marrying. What was interesting is a conservative and liberal attorney joined together to fight this injustice. The key part of their argument was do people who marry have any impact on other people? They argued successfully that other folks do not have standing to prevent such marriage.

If what I do with my life does not impact you whatsoever, even though you may not like it, you do not have standing. And, vice versa. I have no standing in what you do, as long as you are not harming me. If you choose to have…

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Where Does It End???

Perhaps there is some confusion on the meanings of certain words and phrases.  At the beginning of Trump’s ‘Reign of Bigotry’, Kellyanne Conway, referring to the number of people who attended the inauguration, introduced the term ‘alternative facts’.  It would seem that now there is some general confusion, particularly among those tied to the Trump administration, about what words mean.  Let us take a couple of examples:

Religious freedom: the freedom to practice and observe your religion of choice, or none at all, without interference.

Civil rights: the rights of citizens to political and social freedom and equality.

Conscience: an inner feeling or voice viewed as acting as a guide to the rightness or wrongness of one’s behavior.

Of course, we can expand on these definitions, but these are the base, the foundation, and for the purpose of this conversation will serve quite nicely.

Donald Trump has once again found a way to circumvent Congressional approval and make law himself by creating a new division within the Civil Rights office of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).  The name of this new division is “Division for Conscience and Religious Freedom”. It might just as well be the “Division for Discrimination”, for that is precisely what it is.  The sheer irony is that it is a division within the Civil Rights office, and yet it threatens to take civil rights from both the LGBT community and any who have had or seek to have an abortion.


Roger Severino

The head of the Civil Rights office within HHS is headed up by one Roger Severino, a man who has been extremely vocal in his opposition to abortion, same-sex marriage and anti-discrimination protections for transgender people.  The purpose of this new division is to “defend healthcare workers who, on religious grounds, refuse to treat patients or take part in procedures”. Severino claims this division will “protect people from unfair treatment”.

It seems to me that health care workers are there to serve the public, not to pick and choose which members of the public are worthy of being helped.  Think about this one for a minute.  Say I had an abortion six years ago (no, I didn’t) and it is in my medical file.  Today, I wake up with severe chest pains, and I call for an ambulance.  The driver comes, checks my vital signs, then asks if I have ever had an abortion?  ‘Oh, I’m sorry, I cannot transport you to the hospital, for abortion is against my religious beliefs.’ Extreme example?  Maybe, maybe not.  I can see it happening, and that is the part that should frighten us all.

Severino says the goal is to ‘protect individuals from unfair treatment’.  I ask you, which is more unfair:  denying life-saving medical treatment to a sick person, or asking a health care professional to treat each patient as a human being, nothing more?

“No one should be forced to choose between helping sick people and living by one’s deepest moral or religious convictions, and the new division will help guarantee that victims of unlawful discrimination find justice,” said Severino.  VICTIMS???  Excuse me, but did he say victims?  The nurse who is asked to draw blood from a gay person is the victim here?  I think not.  The victim is the person who is being refused life-saving medical treatment because of his gender identity.  The victim is the one who is being discriminated against, and that is not the nurse who is simply being asked to do her job! This division is nothing more than a vehicle to use religion as a justification for discrimination.

In addition to my absolute fury over this division and its likely policies, I also have a fear about what other doors this opens.  Think about this … we have a hell of a lot of white supremacists in this nation, it seems.  What happens when they claim their rights are being violated by having to serve black people in restaurants, or white supremacist doctors feel it is unjust for them to have to treat African-American patients?  Or what about the anti-Semitic doctor or nurse who is opposed to treating Jewish patients?

Now, back to the definition of religious freedom for a moment.  If you don’t believe that abortion is right, then do not have an abortion.  That is your right, your freedom to choose not to have an abortion.  However, if I do choose to have one, it is not your right to choose for me, it is not your right to prevent me from having one.  You follow your conscience and I will follow mine.

Louise Melling, deputy legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said, “Religious liberty doesn’t include a right to be exempt from laws protecting our health or barring discrimination. It doesn’t mean a right to refuse to transport a patient in need because she had an abortion. It doesn’t mean refusing care to a patient because she is transgender. Medical standards, not religious belief, should guide medical care.”

The division speaks of ‘conscience’, yet perhaps these people who are so offended by treating a gay or transgender person ought to examine their own consciences a little closer and see their own bigotry and narrow-mindedness.

Yesterday, a press conference was held with a series of speeches celebrating the new division.  Severino led the event and at one point, referring to health  care professionals who refuse to treat LGBT people, he  compared their situation with that of Jews who were slaughtered during the Holocaust and Martin Luther King Jr. in his quest for racial justice. Seriously??? The Nazis, he said, had forced Jews to wear a certain type of insole in their shoes with Hebrew writing on them, “so that every step they took, they would be violating their conscience….I could see the common humanity of why someone is forced to violate their conscience with every step they take, how it’s an attack, really, on their human dignity.”

An excerpt from the Hippocratic Oath that is taken by all doctors reads, “I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings …”  Please note that it does not say “all human beings with whom I am in religious agreement”, but simply “all human beings”.  I read the entire oath, and did not find anything that indicates otherwise.

This entire scenario is surreal, it is chilling, for as I said, it opens doors to discrimination in every facet of our society, and against every group.  This, my friends, is not what this nation is, not what it was ever intended to be.  This is not a nation I recognize, as I have said more than once in the past year.  This is not a nation in which I can any longer have even a degree of pride.  Donald Trump promised to “make America great again”, but instead, he has made it terrible. Ruined it for people of true conscience, for humanitarians, for people who put others before themselves.  If Trump is allowed to stay in office beyond the end of this year, I predict there will be a mass migration out of the country, and I will be leading the way.

Note to Readers:  You may have noticed that I am slow these days in responding to comments, and have not visited your blogs as much as I would like.  Please forgive me, but I am having serious vision difficulties these days, and can neither read nor write without holding a magnifying glass in one hand.  As you might imagine, that slows me down quite a bit.  Please bear with me and keep commenting … I read them all, but simply have not been able to respond as timely as I would like. Hopefully my vision problems can be corrected soon, but meanwhile, thank you for your continued patience w!ith my slowness.  Love ‘n hugs to you all

NAACP: Travel To Missouri At Your Own Risk

You may have missed this story, for it was but a very short story … more of a blurb, really … in both The Washington Post and the New York Times, each of whom simply copied the Associated Press release, word for word.  I found the full story in the Kansas City Star along with links to verify and fill in the gaps.

The AP release:

NAACP Delegates Back Advisory Urging Caution in Missouri

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS AUG. 1, 2017, 12:21 P.M. E.D.T.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The head of the Missouri NAACP says the national organization is backing a travel advisory urging caution in Missouri over concerns about whether civil rights will be respected.

Missouri NAACP President Rod Chapel says national delegates voted last week to adopt a travel advisory that the state chapter issued in June. Chapel says the national board will consider ratification in October.

The advisory cites a new state law making it more difficult to sue for housing or employment discrimination. The state NAACP says the measure could make it tougher to hold people accountable for harassment and discrimination.

Supporters argue the law will help reduce “frivolous lawsuits” in the state.

The advisory also cites a report showing black Missouri drivers last year were 75 percent more likely to be stopped than whites.

Chapel says he hopes recognition from the national organization will boost awareness.

I do not know on what page this story ran in either publication, but I had to dig to find it online.  Why?  Given that neither the Post nor the Times tend to be in the least bit racist, I can only guess that the reason this story did not make the cut was because it did not contain the name “Trump”.  If it had, it would have warranted 1,000+ words instead of a mere 143.

This is the first time in history that the NAACP has issued such a warning for an entire state.  The reason?  An increase in race-based incidents throughout the state, as well as recently passed legislation making it harder, if not impossible, for fired employees to prove racial discrimination.

From the national NAACP website:

BALTIMOREThe NAACP Travel Advisory for the state of Missouri, effective through August 28th, 2017, calls for African American travelers, visitors and Missourians to pay special attention and exercise extreme caution when traveling throughout the state given the series of questionable, race-based incidents occurring statewide recently, and noted therein.

Nearly three years ago, racial bias in Missouri seized national headlines after Michael Brown was shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., prompting widespread protests. More recently, however, there have been other disturbing incidents, such as death threats to black students at the University of Missouri in Columbia, black drivers being 75% more likely to be stopped and searched than white drivers.

Then there was Senate bill #43 signed in June that says a terminated employee must prove that racial bias was the sole reason for his or her termination, rather than simply a contributing factor.  Additionally, it removes protections for state employees — and limits punitive damages for victims of workplace discrimination. In April, the head of the Missouri NAACP tried to express his concerns about the measure at a hearing. As soon as he compared it to Jim Crow, the Republican committee chair ordered his microphone turned off. The bill was passed 98-30 and Governor Eric Greitens quickly signed it into law.

Then there are the murders.  The chart below showing a summary of homicides by age, race and gender this year as of August 1, tells the tale …

Missouri-stats.pngThe PDF showing the full chart can be found here.

The most high-profile case was that of Tory Sanders, a black man from Tennessee, traveling through Missouri who had the misfortune to run out of gas on May 5th. He walked to the nearest convenience store, was not clear where he was and tried to talk to the police officer who happened to be in the convenience store at the time. But instead of helping Mr. Sanders, the officer arrested him.  Accused of no crime, he was nonetheless jailed and subjected to pepper spray and the use of a stun gun at least three times by jail staff.  The details are sketchy and conflicting from one news source to another, but the bottom line is that by the end of the day, Mr. Sanders was dead.

The struggle for equality has been long and hard for African-Americans.  Brown v. Board of Education, the death of Emmett Till, the Montgomery bus boycott, the Little Rock Nine, Freedom Rides, voter registration fights, to name just a few.  Are we to return to the day when African-Americans must sit at the back of the bus, must use separate facilities?  Is that where we are heading?  Under Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, it seems chillingly possible.

Just this week in the news the Attorney General’s office announced that the administration is preparing to redirect resources of the Justice Department’s civil rights division toward investigating and suing universities over affirmative action admissions policies deemed to discriminate against white applicants.  This is an abomination, and one which I will write more about at a later date.  Meanwhile, we have crimes against blacks on the rise, and a so-called Justice Department that is, at the very least, unconcerned, and at the worst, willing to roll back many of the rights African-Americans fought and died for over the last six decades.

Missouri’s state nickname is the “Show-Me State”.  I think it is high time someone “show” Missouri that African-Americans are people just like any others, deserving of fair treatment and respect.

Transphobia In The White House …

On Wednesday morning, the ‘man’ who just a year ago swore he would protect LGBT rights, tweeted the following:

“After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow…… Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming….. victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you.”

Let that sink in for a minute.  This is in direct contrast to the tweet he made on 14 June 2016, where he wrote, “Thank you to the LGBT community! I will fight for you while Hillary brings in more people that will threaten your freedoms and beliefs.”

Thousands of troops currently serving in the military are transgender, and some estimates place the number as high as 11,000 in the reserves and active duty military, according to a Rand Corp. study commissioned by the Defense Department.

As a reasonably intelligent, thinking person, I ask the question … how the Sam Heck does having transgender people in the military disrupt and burden the military???  Here are some of the excuses I found in my search for an answer to my question:

  • Military leaders are uncomfortable with transgender service. They fear that transgender service risks upsetting morale, especially in aggressive combat infantry units.
  • It could require new rules for restrooms, showers and other day-to-day functions.
  • Physical fitness requirements differ between males and females, and the military is not sure how to handle this one.
  • No refrigeration for medication during deployments.
  • There is a fear that if transgender personnel be allowed to serve openly, morale will be detrimentally affected.

Nothing more than a bunch of excuses.  The answer to my question, just as I expected, is really nothing more than bigotry … homophobia … transphobia. To further deflate the argument is the fact that 19 countries DO allow transgender people in the military, including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Israel, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden and United Kingdom.

According to my research, it appears that another major reason for transphobia both within the military and society as a whole is that many unenlightened people still, in the 21st century, consider that being transgender is a mental illness. I think this is the sort of thinking that takes us back to the Dark Ages.  And the broader question is … who’s next?  Will Trump decide that women will not be allowed to serve?  What about African-Americans?  Hispanics?  Or will he exclude Jews next?

What I found equally mind-numbing was a response by controversial former Breitbart employee, Milo Yiannopoulos:

“You don’t help mentally ill trans people by sticking them on the front lines. You help them with therapy and drugs — though not, I have to stress, transition surgery. I only wish he’d gone further and banned women from combat units too, since the evidence clearly shows their presence is disastrous for both morale and performance. Baby steps?”

Trump’s transphobic statement was not popular with most, including those on Capitol Hill and in the Pentagon.  The Pentagon press office was unaware that this decision was coming and referred questions about it to the White House.

“The tweet was the first we heard about it,” a defense official told the Wall Street Journal.

And while most in Congress deftly sidestepped the issue, a few spoke out:

“The President’s tweet this morning regarding transgender Americans in the military is yet another example of why major policy announcements should not be made via Twitter. The statement was unclear. The Department of Defense has already decided to allow currently-serving transgender individuals to stay in the military, and many are serving honorably today. Any American who meets current medical and readiness standards should be allowed to continue serving. There is no reason to force service members who are able to fight, train, and deploy to leave the military—regardless of their gender identity.” – Senator John McCain, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“You ought to treat everybody fairly and give everybody a chance to serve.” –  Senator Richard C. Shelby Republican from Alabama

“I don’t think we should be discriminating against anyone.” – Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican from Utah

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was obviously at a loss, having only one stock answer for the multitude of questions about specifics and implementation posed by reporters:

“,,, something that the Department of Defense and the White House will have to work together on as implementation takes place. This is a military decision, It’s not meant to be anything more than that.”

And when the questions continued, she threatened to end the press briefing, saying “If those are the only questions we have, I’m going to call it a day, but if we have questions on other topics, I’ll be happy to take them.”

Meanwhile, civil rights groups such as Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) are prepared to take legal action when and if the transgender ban becomes policy.  Josh Block, an attorney for the ACLU’s LGBT Project, believes it would violate the Constitution’s equal protection clause and the Administrative Procedure Act. The APA protects individuals from “arbitrary or capricious” actions.

Once again, as was the case with his original travel ban, Trump has leapt without looking and his foolhardy actions have simply added another level to the chaos that defines the Trump administration.  Stay tuned, for I am certain to be back later with still more of this ulcer-inducing drama …

911 operator: What is the nature of your emergency?

Me:  I need to report a theft.

911 operator: What, exactly, was stolen, ma’am?

Me:  My sanity.  The thief goes by the name of Donald Trump and I can give you his address.  I want him arrested immediately.

Me:  Hello?  Hello …

Who Are We?

Tonight, two separate stories popped onto my radar, and I asked myself if I really ought to write about them.  They are both about extreme bigotry, examples of the illogical and purposeless hatred spreading across our nation today … more so in the south, but in the rest of the country as well.  And I wonder if my readers tire of these stories. But after I re-read the stories, I decided that yes, I need to write about these stories, for to remain silent would be to add my own guilt to that of others.  I have committed to using my voice to speak out against social injustice, and these both fit into that category.  So …


Jordan Edwards, 15

This first one is a story that has become all too familiar in the past few years:  white police officer shoots and kills young black man.  Only this time, it was a boy … a fifteen-year-old boy.  Jordan Edwards was his name.  Last Saturday night, young Jordan was with his two brothers and two other teens, leaving a party at a house in a Dallas suburb.  Apparently neighbors had called the police because of the noise of the party, which was just breaking up.  As the teens were driving off in their car, Balch Springs Police Officer Roy Oliver opened fire on the vehicle, killing Jordan Edwards who was sitting in the front passenger seat.

Initially, the other officers stated that the driver of the vehicle had put the car into reverse and was ‘aggressively’ driving toward the police officers, but when body cams proved this to be untrue, they changed their stories.  In a news conference Monday, Balch Springs Police Chief Jonathan Haber said that he initially “misspoke” and that the vehicle had begun to drive away at the time the officer opened fire. The teens were already in their car when they saw flashlights and heard gunshots.  They drove for about a block before they noticed that there was smoke coming from Jordan’s head. The driver of the car, Jordan’s older brother, stopped the car, and they flagged down an approaching police cruiser for help. But for young Jordan, it was too late.


Roy Oliver

Officer Oliver was initially placed on desk duty, but on Tuesday evening, Chief Haber told reporters, “After reviewing the findings I have made the decision to terminate Roy Oliver’s employment with the Balch Springs Police Department. My department will continue to be responsive, transparent and accountable.”  Assuming that he stands by that pledge, this case may end differently than the notable cases such as Alton Sterling, Freddie Gray, Michael Brown and others.

Officer Oliver had a history of trouble during his six years with the department.  In 2013, he was temporarily suspended after the District Attorney’s office filed a complaint about his angry outburst and vulgar language during a trial in which he was testifying.  He was ordered to take training courses in anger management and courtroom demeanor and testimony. Earlier this year, Oliver was reprimanded for being “disrespectful to a civilian on a call.” Not major items, but indicative that perhaps he had issues that made police work a poor career choice for him.

Yesterday afternoon, a judge signed a murder warrant for Oliver, setting bail at $300,000. “The warrant was issued due to evidence that suggested Mr. Oliver intended to cause serious bodily injury and commit an act clearly dangerous to human life that caused the death of an individual,” Melinda Urbina, a public information officer with the Dallas County Sheriff’s Office, said in a statement.

Time will tell whether justice will be served this time, as it has not yet been in similar cases.  It is time … time to send a message to all police officers that we will not tolerate racism, that indeed, Black Lives DO Matter.

They met in 1965 and had lived together ever since. For a time, in their youth, they traveled around the country, indulging in their mutual interest in Civil War history, tried their hand at growing apples in Wisconsin, but eventually both went on to become special education teachers, dedicating their lives to kids with special needs.  When they retired some twenty years ago, they decided to move south, to a warmer climate, and settled in Picayune, Mississippi.  In all that time, they never married, until 2015 when the Supreme Court ruled that gay couples had as much right as anybody to marry.  Their names are Jack Zawadski and Robert (Bob) Huskey.  Mr. Zawadski is now 82, and sadly, Mr. Huskey died last May at age 86.


Robert Huskey (left) and Jack Zawadski (right)

Mr. Huskey had suffered serious heart problems ever since by-pass surgery some years ago. “Jack cared for Bob through his surgery, recovery and as his condition deteriorated. By August, 2015, Jack was helping Bob with all the daily functions of life, including eating, walking and personal hygiene.” Mr. Huskey moved into a nursing home, and last April it became clear that he would soon die.

The couple’s nephew, John Gaspari, made the arrangements ahead of time with Picayune Funeral Home, the only funeral home in the county with an on-site crematory. Mr. Huskey died on May 11th, and the nursing home contacted the funeral home to let them know.  But the funeral home owners refused to pick up the body, saying that once they received the paperwork and realized that his spouse was also a male, they would not pick him up because they don’t “deal with their kind.”  After being together, loving each other, living a good life together for 52 years, then this.

zawadskiMr. Zawadski has filed a lawsuit and is represented by Lambda Legal, an LGBT rights law firm and advocacy organization based in New York. The owners of the funeral home, Ted and Henrietta Brewer, deny that they refused to pick up the body or that they made the comment, but their attorney offers no other explanation.

This story touched a raw nerve, as I have two very dear friends who are married, Bryan and Brian, as it were.  Brian died last October of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) and in his last months, Bryan did everything for him, just as Jack did for Bob.  It was heartbreaking when he died, and this story reminded me so much of them that I could not write it without a few tears. R.I.P., Brian … and Bob.

After reading both of these stories last night, I have to ask myself, who are we, as a society?  When did we stop being kind and tolerant of the differences in people, or were we ever kind and tolerant? When and why did we stop valuing people for their individuality? I thought we were better than this. I really want us to be better than this.

Let’s Talk About The Issues … Part II

In my last post, Let’s Talk About The Issues … Part I,  I attempted to compare the list of issues that I consider the top five facing the nation today, with those of the nation as a whole.  I had expected to cover all five on both lists, but got through only the first item on the national list.  This post is the second part, but perhaps not the final.

The top five, according to Gallup survey of July 13-17 are:

  1. Economy
  2. Racism/Race relations
  3. Dissatisfaction with government
  4. Crime/Violence
  5. Ethics/Moral/Religious decline

And now my list:

  1. Bigotry/racism
  2. Environment/climate change
  3. Gun control
  4. Education
  5. Refugee crisis/immigration

Second on the national list and first on my own is racism, or as I prefer ‘bigotry’, which is a much broader term encompassing discrimination based on criteria of not only race, but religion, gender, gender-identification, nationality, etc.  I have written about this at length in previous posts, so I will keep it short here.  Since the shooting of a young, unarmed black man in Florida in 2012, the ugly beast of racism seems to have raised its head to a level unprecedented since the Civil Rights era of the 1950s-1960s.  We have seen an increase of police shootings of unarmed black men, disparate numbers of black males are stopped by police for little, if any, reason, leading to claims of racial profiling.  And the African-American community, understandably, is frightened and resentful.  Unfortunately, the current political climate is only encouraging racist behaviour.

But the bigotry does not stop there.  Many states have taken it upon themselves to pass laws that are contrary to the federal laws that promise equal rights for the LGBT community.  While these laws are slowly, tediously being struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court, the states are continuing to make, pass and enact such laws, and in the process to fan the fires of bias and discrimination against the LGBT community.

muslim-womanImmigrants and refugees are also targets of bigotry, again enhanced by the hate-filled rhetoric that is bandied about as a result of the current political climate.  Just as with any other group of humans, there are a few bad apples, but most refugees and immigrants came here hoping to build a life that would be safer than their old life, and instead they are finding danger lurks in the form of bigoted citizenry who have been told, and believe, that every Mexican is a rapist or murderer, and every Middle-Easterner is a terrorist.

Unfortunately, while I see this as the number one issue facing our nation today, I think it will require more than laws to resolve.  It will require a return to humanity and sanity among the citizens of this nation, aided by laws with harsh punishment for violators.

Third on the national list of issues is ‘dissatisfaction with government’.  This is too vague to address with any depth.  Dissatisfied with what, specifically?  I suspect that, depending on who you ask, you could get 100 different answers to this.  My experience during the past 7+ years has been that when asking a person to provide specific details, they cannot.  The stock answer is usually that “Obama is the worst president ever”.  My response to this varies, depending on mood of the moment, but today I offer this response:  “President Obama has done an excellent job in light of the fact that the people voted into office a congress that blocks him at nearly every turn.  If you are dissatisfied with government, then elect some senators and representatives who will do their jobs and work with the president in the spirit of cooperation and bi-partisanship.  Send to congress men and women who will put the interests of the nation before the interests of a select few. Until then, or until you at least stop being a lemming and do some reading and research to support a specific complaint, go away and hush.”  Or, as my mother used to say “you made your bed, now lie in it”. Enough said on that topic.

Fourth on the national list of issues and concerns is crime/violence. According to statistics, crime has been dropping since 1991.  That said, the rise in mass shootings contributes to the perception that crime is on the rise, as does the political climate and the culture of fear being developed in the self-interest of candidates with other agendas.  In other words, if I want to sell more sunscreen, I must first convince you that the sun is more dangerous than in years past.  Apparently, since crime made #4 on the list, this tactic is working. crime-graph

And last, but not least on the national list, my personal favourite to argue discuss, Ethics/Moral/Religious decline.  Where to even begin?

Ethics:  moral principles that govern a person’s or group’s behaviour.

Morals:  a person’s standards of behavior or beliefs concerning what is and is not acceptable.

Religion:  the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods.


The Constitution provides for each person to have the freedom to ascribe to the religion of their choice.  It does not say that Christians and only Christians have that right.  It gives everybody that right, Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, Christians, and atheists all have the same right under the Constitution.  It does not provide the right to inflict one’s beliefs on others.  It also does not provide the right to discriminate against others because their beliefs are not strictly aligned with yours.  As I have said many times before, ours is a secular, not a religious government.  There is no “national religion”.  All religions are protected, but none are afforded special privilege.  Period.  There is no argument.  So-called “religious freedom” laws that have recently been passed in many states are not about protecting religious freedom, but rather restricting freedom of those whose beliefs may be different than others. Beliefs are protected, but discriminatory actions are not.  In other words, if you refuse to serve a person in your place of business because that person’s beliefs conflict with your own, you are in violation of the law because you are denying that person his/her rights.  It is a sad statement of humanity that this even needs to be stated.

As regards ethics and morals, again, this is something that is entirely too vague to address, as I fail to understand what those who see it as a problem expect our elected officials to do about either.  Note the definitions above … they deal with personal beliefs.  The government cannot, nor should it, make laws telling people how to think or believe.  Government can only make laws pertaining to the actions of people.  Believe what you will, just do not behave, based on your beliefs, in such a way that harms others or deprives them of their rights.

That wraps it up for the national list of most important issues in the 2016 campaigns.  Once again, I have gotten carried away (yes, you and I both knew I would) and so I will attempt to address my own list in 1,200 words or less in my next post!  As always, please feel free to comment on any or all of my points.  I welcome open discourse and actually do listen and consider all points of view.  So, until next time …

Racism of the Everyday Variety

hijabYesterday, a friend of my neighbor was shopping in a local Kroger, shopping for food to feed her family, when she accidentally bumped her cart into that of another shopper.  She apologized, the other shopper said “no problem”, and the matter should have ended there.  However, as she moved on, she heard the other shopper say to her friend “ISIS”.  The friend of my neighbor, you see, was wearing her traditional hijab.

The picture below was taken in Florence, Kentucky on 09 July 2016.  blacks sign

A Hispanic friend walked into a fast food restaurant and waited to be served, but the employee continued doing busy-work around the store, cleaning up and pretending not to even see my friend. Then a white woman entered the store and the employee served that woman first, while my friend continued to wait.

When we think or speak of racism, we think of the big, glaring examples, like KKK rallies, Trump speeches, police shootings of unarmed blacks, anti-anything-but-Caucasian rallies and protests, but racism exists in everyday life.  You can find it, obviously, in the supermarket, on street corners, in schools and in nearly every church across the nation.  U.S. WASPs have darned near perfected the practice of everyday racism.

racism-8We, those of us who are socially and morally conscious of such things, try to combat racism in the U.S. through legal channels and by attacking the institutions that promote or tolerate such behaviour.  That, too, is necessary, but I wonder if perhaps we would be more effective by using what little voice we have to combat the smaller events like those listed above.  For example, had I been shopping and seen the incident between my neighbor’s friend and the other woman, I might have stepped in and explained to the woman that: a) the proper term is Daesh, not ISIS; b) the vast majority of Muslims are not affiliated with terrorist organizations like Daesh; and c) Islam is a religion of peace and love, not hate.  Frankly, by the time I finished with that lady, she probably would have parked her cart and went running out of the store, as you all know how I am once I step up onto my soapbox!  Or, had I been the woman who walked into the fast food place and was immediately waited on, I might have said, “No, she (the Hispanic woman) was here first … please take her order first.”  And I will not even speculate on what I might have done had I come upon the man holding the sign, other than to say I would be calling upon my friends to take up a collection for bail money instead of writing this blog post.

racism-6It is called ‘everyday racism’, and it is relatively small things like this that grow into full-blown racism of the type we see propagated by various organizations, particularly this year in the culture of fear, bigotry and multiple phobias that have been pushed forth by politicians, religious leaders and the media.  People are now afraid to use public restrooms, they are afraid of women wearing a hijab, they are afraid of people who look, speak and act differently than themselves.  We must bring common sense back to the streets.  We must be willing to stand up for our beliefs, the belief upon which this nation is based, that “All Men (and women) Are Created Equal”.  We must be willing to stand up to the bigot and the xenophobe.

For the most part, none of us will ever have the opportunity to destroy the KKK, to be instrumental in passing laws that provide safe haven for Muslims, or to bring dirty cops to justice.  But that does not mean we are powerless.  We have the power to apply our values, our convictions, if only we dig down within ourselves to find the courage to do so.  Certainly it is far easier to walk away, to turn our heads and pretend that we just do not see.  But I can tell you that when you put your head on your pillow tonight, whether you wish it or not, your conscience will either reward you for standing up for your beliefs, for your fellow human being, or will cause you to question why you did not.  Think about it.