Think Your Vote Isn’t Important?

Well, here we are … the big day has finally arrived after months of divisive rhetoric, dirty tricks to keep voters from the polls, and demoralizing speech by certain corrupt elements in our government.  This has been the ugliest, nastiest election season I have seen in my 67 years. Today is the day those who haven’t already voted will head to the polls.  Well, most will.  Some will.  Others, it seems, have a thousand and one excuses for not voting, the top one seeming to be “my vote doesn’t really matter”, followed by “I don’t have time”.  Think it’s not important that you vote?  Let’s look at somebody who thought it was …

She felt violated, she felt abused, not by a single perpetrator but by the government that was supposed to protect her.Fannie-Lou-HamerHer name was Fannie Lou Hamer. She was born on October 6, 1917. Her parents were sharecroppers in the Mississippi Delta area. As a child, she often went hungry and without shoes. In the winter, she tied rags on her feet to keep her feet warm. She began working the fields when she was only 6 years old.

Later she realized she was not considered “a first class citizen” because she was poor, because she was black, because she was a woman.

In 1961, she went to a hospital to remove a tumor. She would be given a hysterectomy without her consent by a white doctor who was following the state plan to reduce the number of poor blacks in the state. Fannie Lou Hamer became another victim of the involuntary or uninformed sterilization of black women, common in the South in the 1960s. They were commonly called “Mississippi appendectomies” because women would be told they needed to get their appendix out, but instead they would be sterilized.”

“In the North Sunflower County Hospital,” Hamer would say, “I would say about six out of the 10 Negro women that go to the hospital are sterilized with the tubes tied.”

The government-funded program started in the 1930s targeting people in “institutions for mental illness” then slowly targeting “the blind, the deaf, the disabled, alcoholics, those with epilepsy, and ultimately the rural poor on welfare.”

This was the turning point in Fannie Lou Hamer’s life.

She would say, “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

She decided at that point that she would fight for human rights, human dignity, and she would never give in, to anyone.

She soon realized that the only way to improve her life and the life of other poor blacks was to register to vote. If she was prevented to register or saw others who were prevented to vote, she would speak out and protest, if necessary.

She became relentless. She would be fired from her job, driven from the plantation she had called home for nearly two decades, she would be threatened, arrested, beaten, and shot at, leading to one arrest where she would be beaten nearly to death, suffering permanent kidney damage.

When she was stopped by police, she would start singing “This Little Light of Mine” and “Go Tell It on the Mountain.”

She would say, “I guess if I’d had any sense, I’d have been a little scared — but what was the point of being scared? The only thing they could do was kill me, and it kinda seemed like they’d been trying to do that a little bit at a time since I could remember.”

Fannie Lou Hamer would become a tireless champion for racial equality, working for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), fighting racial segregation and injustice in the South. She also helped to found the National Women’s Political Caucus. She was instrumental in organizing Mississippi’s Freedom Summer for the SNCC, and she later became the vice-chair of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which she represented at the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

At the Democratic National Convention, Hamer would be seen making her way through a group of old, white men to tell the world her story. At times, she fought back tears, such as recounting the time she was beaten in a Mississippi jail. She would add, “I was in jail when Medgar Evers was murdered.”

She would ask, “Is this America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, where we have to sleep with our telephones off the hooks because our lives be threatened daily, because we want to live as decent human beings, in America?”

At the convention, rumors circulated that one of the toughest men in America, President Lyndon B. Johnson, was terrified of Hamer, her courage, and her voice.

Hamer would say, “We got to fight in America . . . for ALL the people.”

Still think it isn’t important, that your vote doesn’t count, or that you just can’t find time?  Do us all a favour and … think again.

**Note:  The header photo is John Lewis, Civil Rights leader and member of the U.S. House of Representatives serving Georgia’s 5th district, during the Selma to Montgomery march in 1965 in the struggle for voting rights.

Thumbs Up — March For Our Lives!

On Saturday over 800 March For Our Lives events, organized by young people, took place around the globe, from New York to Dallas to Seattle, but also in London, Tokyo, Sydney and Mumbai!  This was not some minor protest that will be forgotten by next week.  Nope, folks, this was a BIG DEAL.  These young people had a message and they sent it loud and clear:  It’s time to stop the gun madness in the U.S. – NOW!!!  I support them 100%, and I am so very proud of anyone and everyone who marched, helped organize or contributed in any way to these events.

Think how amazing this is.  The students who survived the February 14th tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, organized the rally in Washington, D.C. and from there, others picked up the baton and ran with it.  This map shows where rallies and marches were held throughout the U.S.map-1

map-2The crowds at the event in Washington were initially estimated to be around 500,000, but by most estimates on Saturday were closer to 800,000!  (Not to be smug, but the inaugural crowds last year were in the ballpark of only 600,000)  I couldn’t have said it any better than President Barack Obama …“This was all because of the courage and effort of a handful of 15- and 16-year-olds, who took the responsibility that so often adults had failed to take in trying to find a solution to this problem, and I think that’s a testimony to what happens when young people are given opportunities, and I think all institutions have to think about how do we tap into that creativity and that energy and that drive. Because it’s there. It’s just so often we say: ‘Wait your turn.’”And make no mistake … there have been many fools who tried to tell these young people to “wait your turn”, and they brushed those naysayers aside and went on to do what their hearts and minds told them to do.  I cannot possibly do justice to all the special moments, but here are a few:

  • Nine-year-old Yolanda Renee King, granddaughter of the late, great Martin Luther King, gave a short but moving speech:
    • “My grandfather had a dream that his four little children would not be judged by the color of their skin but the content of their character. I have a dream that enough is enough and that this should be a gun free world. Period.”
  • George and Amal Clooney donated $500,000 for the Washington event and marched alongside demonstrators, as did Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg and other celebrities too numerous to name.
  • U.S. Representative and Civil Rights hero John Lewis gave an impassioned speech where he said he was proud of the “F” rating he has from the NRA.

But by far the stars of the show were the speeches by the survivors of the Parkland tragedy and the signs!  Take a look at some of these signs, folks!Rally Held In Parkland, Florida Calling For Increased Gun Safety Laws Ahead Of Weekend's National Marchessignage-3signage-4And then there was Emma González’ moment of silence.  Actually, about six minutes and 20 seconds of silence, the amount of time it took for the Parkland gunman to complete his rampage and flee the school.

A student survivor of the Parkland, Fla., high school shooting last month held several minutes of silence Saturday at the “March for Our Lives” rally in Washington, D.C., to honor the 17 students and faculty killed in the shooting. Taking the stage mid-afternoon after several other Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School survivors spoke, Emma González remained silent for six minutes before explaining it was the approximate time it took for the Parkland gunman to complete his rampage and flee the school.

“Six minutes and about 20 seconds. In a little over six minutes, 17 of our friends were taken from us, 15 were injured, and everyone, absolutely everyone in the Douglas community was forever altered. Fight for your lives, before it’s someone else’s job.”

These young people are the next generation.  They are the ones who will lead this nation 20, 30 or 40 years from now, perhaps even sooner.  Let us hope that they do not become jaded, that they keep their strong humanitarian values, that they effect the change our own generation is too consumed by greed and materialistic ‘values’ to do.  My thumbs, all of them, are up to these young people!  Thank you all!

Meanwhile, my thumbs go down 👎🏼 to the following:

  • Former republican senator Rick Santorum, who said, “How about kids, instead of looking to someone else to solve their problem, do something about maybe taking CPR classes or trying to deal with situations [so] that when there is a violent shooter, that you can actually respond to that?”  (They should learn CPR so that next time their friends are shot, they can keep them breathing???)
  • The National Rifle Association (NRA) who posted on Facebook: “Stand and Fight for our Kids’ Safety by Joining NRA. Today’s protests aren’t spontaneous. Gun-hating billionaires and Hollywood elites are manipulating and exploiting children as part of their plan to DESTROY the Second Amendment and strip us of our right to defend ourselves and our loved ones.”  (So much stupidity that there really is no response for this!)
  • Whomever doctored this image to make it look as if Emma González were ripping the U.S. Constitution in half, when in fact she was ripping a gun-range target. The image went viral on social media, firing up the already witless staunch defenders of the second amendment.

emma gonzales - doctored tweetSemper Fidelis, young people.

The Ignorant vs The Hero

Yesterday, the Trump administration once again proved their ignorance.  Trump & Co are planning to attend an opening ceremony on Saturday of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum  in Jackson, Mississippi.  For Trump and his minions, it is a photo op, one of those ‘see and be seen’ moments, nothing more, for Trump has already shown his disdain for the achievements and goals of the Civil Rights movement.

Congressman John Lewis is one of those civil rights leaders, one of the icons of the era who is greatly admired and respected.  Mr. Lewis has declined to join Trump on the visit, calling the trip an insult to the African-Americans commemorated there.  Representative Bennie G. Thompson of Mississippi has joined Lewis and will not attend the ceremony.

“President Trump’s attendance and his hurtful policies are an insult to the people portrayed in this civil rights museum.” – Joint statement issued by Lewis & Thompson

Various civil rights groups, including the NAACP, have also protested Trump’s appearance at the ceremony …

“President Trump’s statements and policies regarding the protection and enforcement of civil rights have been abysmal, and his attendance is an affront to the veterans of the civil rights movement.” – NAACP president and chief executive Derrick Johnson

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, White House Press Secretary who speaks for Trump, said ..

“We think it’s unfortunate that these members of Congress wouldn’t join the President in honoring the incredible sacrifice civil rights leaders made to right the injustices in our history.  The president hopes others will join him in recognizing that the movement was about removing barriers and unifying Americans of all backgrounds.”

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John Lewis receiving Medal of Freedom – February 2011

John Lewis IS one of those brave civil rights leaders who risked life and limb time and time again to, as Ms. Sanders put it, remove barriers and unify Americans of all backgrounds.  The entire statement shows that she, like her boss, has no idea what the civil rights movement was about, who its heroes are, and what they sacrificed.  Her words are as a slap in the face to a man who is far greater, far braver, than Donald Trump will ever be.

Let me tell you a little bit about John Lewis, who has long been a hero of mine. He was one of the original 13 Freedom Riders, served as Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), organized voter registration efforts that led to the pivotal Selma to Montgomery marches, was one of the “Big Six” leaders who organized the March on Washington, coordinated SNCC’s efforts for “Mississippi Freedom Summer,” a campaign to register black voters across the South. He is best known for the role he played on March 7th, 1965, known as “Bloody Sunday”, when he helped lead over 600 marchers across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. At the end of the bridge, they were met by Alabama State Troopers who ordered them to disperse. When the marchers stopped to pray, the police discharged tear gas and mounted troopers charged the demonstrators, beating them with night sticks. Lewis’ skull was fractured.

John-Lewis-5

A True Leader … John Lewis, President Barack Obama and Mrs. Amelia Boynton Robinson

Now, let me also tell you why John Lewis will not travel to the opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum with Trump.  First, Trump’s frequent support of white supremacists is a slap in the face to Lewis and all he has fought for.  But it goes even further than that, for in January, just a few days before his inauguration, Trump said of John Lewis …

“Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results. All talk, talk, talk — no action or results. Sad!”

Not only was that a highly inappropriate remark for Trump to make, but it was blatantly false, for Lewis’ 5th district, which includes Atlanta, is far from a hellhole, incorporating the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Georgia Tech and Emory University.

Even back on the campaign trail in 2015/2016, Trump denigrated African-Americans, telling them that their communities, indeed their very lives, were so bad that they had ‘nothing to lose’ by supporting him.  And ever since he took office, he has pandered to known white supremacists, such as Steve Bannon, policy advisor Stephen Miller, former deputy assistant Sebastian Gorka, and others.  Then came the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville in August, where Trump refused to condemn white supremacists, finally did utter a weak condemnation, only to reverse it a day later.

In addition to his support of white supremacists, Trump has embraced law enforcement practices and voting rights restrictions that disproportionately and negatively impact black communities, repeatedly picked fights with black athletes who he has accused of not showing him sufficient respect, and demanded apologies from prominent African-Americans who have criticized him. Why would John Lewis, who fought so hard for the rights of African-Americans, wish to associate himself with the likes of Trump?

John Lewis deserves to be honoured at the opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, for it is he as much as anybody who made that museum possible.  Donald Trump is the intruder and has no legitimacy there, other than having been invited, as a courtesy or protocol, by the Governor of Mississippi, Phil Bryant. I would love to see John Lewis attend, as he should, but not with Trump.  He should stand proud as one of the last surviving heroes of the civil rights movement and take his place there, shaking hands and accepting the thanks of so many, rather than stand anywhere near the odious Trump.

A Most Deserving Recipient — Senator John McCain

On Monday night, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Senator John McCain received the Liberty Medal, and I cannot think of a more deserving person for this honour.  The Liberty Medal is awarded annually by the National Constitution Center to men and women of courage and conviction who have strived to secure the blessings of liberty to people the world over. The Medal’s roster of recipients includes many of the men, women, and organizations that have shaped and guided the world through the past two decades, including Nelson Mandela, Sandra Day O’Connor, Kofi Annan, Shimon Peres, and Colin Powell. Last year’s medal was awarded, appropriately, to U.S. Representative John Lewis for his “courageous dedication to civil rights”.

Former Vice-President Joe Biden, Chairman of the National Constitution Center’s Board of Trustees, awarded the medal.  McCain and Biden go back a few decades or more, and the banter between the two was easy …

McCain: Thank you, Joe, my old, dear friend, for those mostly undeserved kind words. Vice President Biden and I have known each other for a lot of years now, more than forty, if you’re counting. We knew each other back when we were young and handsome and smarter than everyone else but were too modest to say so. Joe was already a senator, and I was the Navy’s liaison to the Senate. My duties included escorting senate delegations on overseas trips, and in that capacity, I supervised the disposition of the delegation’s luggage, which could require – now and again – when no one of lower rank was available for the job – that I carry someone worthy’s bag. Once or twice that worthy turned out to be the young senator from Delaware.  I’ve resented it ever since.

Biden: The son of a gun never carried my bags. He was supposed to carry my bags; he never carried my bags.

Biden-McCain

And then came McCain’s acceptance speech. I initially planned to provide only some excerpts, but as I read and re-read the speech, I found I could not choose, for the speech is exceptional … humble, meaningful, and important in its entirety. And so, my apologies for the length, but I think is well worth reading and pondering:

“Joe has heard me joke about that before. I hope he has heard, too, my profession of gratitude for his friendship these many years. It has meant a lot to me. We served in the Senate together for over twenty years, during some eventful times, as we passed from young men to the fossils who appear before you this evening.

We didn’t always agree on the issues. We often argued – sometimes passionately. But we believed in each other’s patriotism and the sincerity of each other’s convictions. We believed in the institution we were privileged to serve in. We believed in our mutual responsibility to help make the place work and to cooperate in finding solutions to our country’s problems. We believed in our country and in our country’s indispensability to international peace and stability and to the progress of humanity. And through it all, whether we argued or agreed, Joe was good company. Thank you, old friend, for your company and your service to America.

Thank you, too, to the National Constitution Center, and everyone associated with it for this award. Thank you for that video, and for the all too generous compliments paid to me this evening. I’m aware of the prestigious company the Liberty Medal places me in. I’m humbled by it, and I’ll try my best not to prove too unworthy of it.

Some years ago, I was present at an event where an earlier Liberty Medal recipient spoke about America’s values and the sacrifices made for them. It was 1991, and I was attending the ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The World War II veteran, estimable patriot and good man, President George H.W. Bush, gave a moving speech at the USS Arizona memorial. I remember it very well. His voice was thick with emotion as he neared the end of his address. I imagine he was thinking not only of the brave Americans who lost their lives on December 7, 1941, but of the friends he had served with and lost in the Pacific where he had been the Navy’s youngest aviator.

‘Look at the water here, clear and quiet …’ he directed, ‘One day, in what now seems another lifetime, it wrapped its arms around the finest sons any nation could ever have, and it carried them to a better world.’

He could barely get out the last line, ‘May God bless them, and may God bless America, the most wondrous land on earth.’

The most wondrous land on earth, indeed. I’ve had the good fortune to spend sixty years in service to this wondrous land. It has not been perfect service, to be sure, and there were probably times when the country might have benefited from a little less of my help. But I’ve tried to deserve the privilege as best I can, and I’ve been repaid a thousand times over with adventures, with good company, and with the satisfaction of serving something more important than myself, of being a bit player in the extraordinary story of America. And I am so very grateful.

What a privilege it is to serve this big, boisterous, brawling, intemperate, striving, daring, beautiful, bountiful, brave, magnificent country. With all our flaws, all our mistakes, with all the frailties of human nature as much on display as our virtues, with all the rancor and anger of our politics, we are blessed.

We are living in the land of the free, the land where anything is possible, the land of the immigrant’s dream, the land with the storied past forgotten in the rush to the imagined future, the land that repairs and reinvents itself, the land where a person can escape the consequences of a self-centered youth and know the satisfaction of sacrificing for an ideal, the land where you can go from aimless rebellion to a noble cause, and from the bottom of your class to your party’s nomination for president.

We are blessed, and we have been a blessing to humanity in turn. The international order we helped build from the ashes of world war, and that we defend to this day, has liberated more people from tyranny and poverty than ever before in history. This wondrous land has shared its treasures and ideals and shed the blood of its finest patriots to help make another, better world. And as we did so, we made our own civilization more just, freer, more accomplished and prosperous than the America that existed when I watched my father go off to war on December 7, 1941.

To fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain ‘the last best hope of earth’ for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.

We live in a land made of ideals, not blood and soil. We are the custodians of those ideals at home, and their champion abroad. We have done great good in the world. That leadership has had its costs, but we have become incomparably powerful and wealthy as we did. We have a moral obligation to continue in our just cause, and we would bring more than shame on ourselves if we don’t. We will not thrive in a world where our leadership and ideals are absent. We wouldn’t deserve to.

I am the luckiest guy on earth. I have served America’s cause – the cause of our security and the security of our friends, the cause of freedom and equal justice – all my adult life. I haven’t always served it well. I haven’t even always appreciated what I was serving. But among the few compensations of old age is the acuity of hindsight. I see now that I was part of something important that drew me along in its wake even when I was diverted by other interests. I was, knowingly or not, along for the ride as America made the future better than the past.

And I have enjoyed it, every single day of it, the good ones and the not so good ones. I’ve been inspired by the service of better patriots than me. I’ve seen Americans make sacrifices for our country and her causes and for people who were strangers to them but for our common humanity, sacrifices that were much harder than the service asked of me. And I’ve seen the good they have done, the lives they freed from tyranny and injustice, the hope they encouraged, the dreams they made achievable.

May God bless them. May God bless America, and give us the strength and wisdom, the generosity and compassion, to do our duty for this wondrous land, and for the world that counts on us. With all its suffering and dangers, the world still looks to the example and leadership of America to become, another, better place. What greater cause could anyone ever serve.

Thank you again for this honor. I’ll treasure it.”

One does not have to always agree with Senator McCain’s ideas to respect him as a patriot, a member of Congress, and most importantly, a human being.  I say a big “Thank You” to Senator John McCain.

*Donald Trump threatened to “fight back” against McCain for this speech.  I will have more on that later today.

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One Hero In Congress …

Today I am tired of writing about Trump & Co.  I have started two posts, one about the G-20 summit, and another about some strange goings-on among the White House staff his week.  Both remain ‘works-in-process’ at this point, not because I got bored with them, but because I realized I was disgusted by everything pertaining to Trump and the administration, Congress and their boot-licking legislation, and the whole works.  So, I was just flipping through some friends’ posts on Facebook, hoping to gain a fresh perspective, when I came across this:

john-lewisAnd that led me to the thought of writing about somebody in Congress who is not driven by greed, not led by fear of Trump, but a true representative of We The People.  While it is true that there are others in Congress who have more of a conscience than the likes of Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, in my opinion, there are none to compare with Representative John Lewis.

Most of you probably know at least a bit of Lewis’ history, but please bear with me as I quickly recap for any who may not.

john-lewis-2John Lewis, one of the most notable heroes of the Civil Rights movement, began his career as an activist in 1959, at the age of 19, by organizing student sit-in demonstrations, bus boycotts, and non-violent protests for voter and racial equality.  Then in 1961, he volunteered to participate in the Freedom Rides, becoming one of the original thirteen Freedom Riders. Lewis risked his life on those rides many times by simply sitting in seats reserved for whites. He was also beaten severely by angry mobs and arrested by police for challenging the injustice of Jim Crow segregation in the South.

John-Lewis-SNCCLewis’ was elected chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1963, at only age 23!  As such, he became a member of the Big Six, leaders of six prominent civil rights organizations, and the organizers of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where Martin Luther King gave his I Have A Dream Speech.

5 minutes 17 seconds, and worth every second!

On August 28, 2013, the fiftieth anniversary of the march, John Lewis along with President Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter addressed a crowd at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Also present were Caroline Kennedy and Lynda Bird Johnson Robb, the daughter of President Lyndon B. Johnson. Other participants included the parents of Trayvon Martin, Oprah Winfrey and Forest Whitaker.

 

Perhaps Mr. Lewis’ most notable moment came in 1965 when he helped organize the now-famous voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, and was among 600 demonstrators attacked by police. This day became known as Bloody Sunday, and 58 people were taken to a local hospital, including Mr. Lewis, who suffered a fractured skull.

John-lewis-skullJohn Lewis won the House seat for Georgia’s 5th Congressional District in 1986.  He has since been re-elected 15 times, and has dropped below 70 percent of the vote only once. He is one of the most liberal members of the House, and one of the most liberal congressmen ever to represent a district in the Deep South. On May 21, 2006, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution said Lewis was the “only former major civil rights leader who extended his fight for human rights and racial reconciliation to the halls of Congress.” In the same article, they referred to Mr. Lewis as the ‘conscience of Congress’.

Though now 77 years old, Lewis’ passion for justice has not dimmed.  In June 2016, he staged a sit-in demanding House Speaker Paul Ryan allow a vote on gun-safety legislation in the aftermath of the Pulse nightclub shooting. Speaker pro tempore Daniel Webster ordered the House into recess, but Democrats refused to leave the chamber for nearly 26 hours. He is no fan of Donald Trump, having compared him to George Wallace at one point during the campaigns last year.  In a Meet The Press interview one week before Trump’s inauguration, he stated, “I don’t see the president-elect as a legitimate president. I think the Russians participated in having this man get elected, and they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton. I don’t plan to attend the Inauguration. I think there was a conspiracy on the part of the Russians, and others, that helped him get elected. That’s not right. That’s not fair. That’s not the open, democratic process.” Trump, naturally, responded with ugly tweets.

There is so much more to be said about Congressman Lewis, but if you want to know more, there are many good books out there, including his own autobiography, Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement, originally published in 1998 and re-issued in paperback in 2015.

John-Lewis-Barack-Obama-medalIn 2011, John Lewis was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama, and on January 6, 2016, it was announced that a future United States Navy underway replenishment oiler would be named USNS John Lewis. He has won so many awards that I cannot possibly list them all.

Lewis was the only living speaker from the March on Washington present on the stage during the inauguration of Barack Obama. Obama signed a commemorative photograph for Lewis with the words, “Because of you, John. Barack Obama.”

In response to his earlier tweet, one of his followers tweeted the following: Katy Otto ‏@exfkaty to tweet. “You are one of a small handful of politicians that gives me hope for this country. Thank you immensely for your service.” I second that, Ms. Otto. In my opinion, Representative John Lewis is a hero both of the past and the present, and possibly the most conscionable of the 535 members of Congress.

Two Good Men

Yesterday, during the second day of the senate confirmation hearing for Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, two men in particular spoke up for justice, for humanity, and against Senator Jeff Sessions.  It is yet to be seen whether their voices made a difference in the outcome, but I am proud of both and think they deserve a two thumbs up for their courage and dedication to the seemingly obsolete concept of “doing what is right”.  The two men are Senator Cory Booker and Representative John Lewis.     doffing-hat

Senator Booker’s speech, parts of which I have quoted below, mark the first time a sitting senator has testified against a colleague’s nomination for a Cabinet post!  In way of an explanation for his break in tradition, he said, “In the choice between standing with Senate norms or standing up for what my conscience tells me is best for our country, I will always choose conscience and country.”

“I know that some of my many colleagues aren’t happy that I’m breaking with senate tradition to testify on the nomination of one of my colleagues. America was founded heralding not law and order, but justice for all. And critical to that is equal justice under the law. Law and order without justice is unobtainable. They are inextricably tied together; if there is no justice there is no peace. The Alabama State troopers on the Edmund Pettis bridge were seeking law and order. The marchers were seeking justice, and ultimately a greater peace. In that office the responsibility to pursue civil rights and equal protection for all of America, Senator Sessions has not demonstrated a commitment. In fact at numerous times in his career he has demonstrated a hostility towards these convictions and has worked to frustrate attempts to advance the ideals. If confirmed Senator Sessions will be required to pursue justice for women. But his record indicates that he will not. He will be expected to defend the equal rights of gay and lesbian and transgender Americans but his record indicates that he won’t. He will be expected to expand voting rights. But his record indicates that he won’t. He will be expected to defend the rights of immigrants and affirm their human dignity but the record indicates that he won’t. His record indicates that as attorney general he would object to the growing national bipartisan movement towards criminal justice reform. His records indicate that we cannot count on him to support state and national efforts towards bringing justice to the justice system and people on both sides of the aisle.”

Mr. Booker will no doubt face criticism for his courage, but those of us who agree that Jeff Sessions is not the right person for Attorney General will applaud his actions.

Representative John Lewis, already much admired for his role as a civil rights leader for many years, also spoke against Sessions’ nomination:

“A clear majority of Americans say they want this to be a fair, just, and open nation. They are afraid this country is headed in the wrong direction. They are concerned that some leaders reject decades of progress and want to return to the dark past, when the power of law was used to deny the freedoms protected by the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and its Amendments. These are the voices I represent today.

We can pretend that the law is blind. We can pretend that it is even-handed. But if we are honest with ourselves, we know that we are called upon daily by the people we represent to help them deal with unfairness in how the law is written and enforced. Those who are committed to equal justice in our society wonder whether Sen. Sessions’ call for “law and order” will mean today what it meant in Alabama, when I was coming up back then. The rule of law was used to violate the human and civil rights of the poor, the dispossessed, people of color.

We have come a distance. We have made progress, but we are not there yet. There are forces that want to take us back to another place. We don’t want to go back. We want to go forward. As the late A. Phillip Randolph, who was the dean of the March on Washington in 1963 often said, ” our foremothers and forefathers all came to this land in distant ships, but we’re all in the same boat now.”

It doesn’t matter whether Sen. Sessions may smile or how friendly he may be, whether he may speak to you. We need someone who will stand up and speak up and speak out for the people who need help, for people who are being discriminated against. And it doesn’t matter whether they are black or white, Latino, Asian or Native American, whether they are straight or gay, Muslim, Christian or Jews We all live in the same house, the American house. We need someone as attorney general who is going to look for all of us, not just some of us. I ran out of time. Thank for giving me a chance to testify.”

It is doubtful, given that the Republican senators appear poised to rule favourably on anything proposed by Mr. Trump, including his cabinet nominees, that either Senator Booker’s or Representative Lewis’ words will have an effect on the final outcome.  They should, if the senate were comprised of men and women of conscience, men and women who took seriously their commitments to represent ALL the people of this nation.   Nonetheless, I applaud the efforts of these two gentlemen who followed the dictates of their conscience, men of high values, for their efforts.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Cory Booker and John Lewis!

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Links to video clips:

Cory Booker video (7:46)

John Lewis video (7:02)

 

The 112th Trainwreck

Congress is currently structured as follows:

  • House – 247 Republicans; 188 Democrats; 0 Independents
  • Senate – 54 Republicans; 44 Democrats; 2 Independents
  • Total – 301 Republicans; 232 Democrats; 2 Independents

112th4While that ratio will change next January based on the upcoming November elections, for the moment it is what it is.  And what is it?  A train wreck.  This 112th Congress is among the very worst we have ever had, if not actually the worst.  As a lawmaking body, they have done almost nothing.  They have passed fewer laws than any Congress since at least 1947 (probably longer).  They are unpopular amongst people of both parties, with an approval rating of only 10% in February.  They nearly toppled the economy by refusing to increase the debt limit and insisting on tax cuts that put far more cash in the bank accounts of the wealthy than the struggling middle class.  Their refusal to raise the debt ceiling led to our S&P downgrade. They voted exactly 33 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), aka Obamacare.  The vote was superfluous, but instead of spending their time coming up with an alternative plan to ACA, they just kept voting to repeal it.  (I have read that a sure sign of mental illness is doing the same thing over and over, hoping for a different result.) They withheld an important Federal Reserve Board nomination.  They withheld even consideration of a critical Supreme Court nomination.  It has been so very bad that there is even a book written almost entirely about the 112th Congress, titled     “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided with the New Politics of Extremism” , by Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein.

Among the few laws they did bother to pass:

  • 112-22 – To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 4865 Tallmadge Road in Rootstown, Ohio, as the “Marine Sgt. Jeremy E. Murray Post Office”
  • 112-23 – To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 95 Dogwood Street in Cary, Mississippi, as the “Spencer Byrd Powers, Jr. Post Office”.
  • 112-20 – Providing for the reappointment of Robert P. Kogod as a citizen regent of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution.
  • 112-13 – To amend the Ronald Reagan Centennial Commission Act to extend the termination date for the Commission, and for other purposes.

See list of all bills passed.  Pretty important laws, wouldn’t you agree?

112th3This, folks, is your Congress, your legislative body, the men and women you chose to be an integral part of our government, this is your Congress, this is your tax dollars hard at work!  And I’m sorry, folks, but at least some 56% of them are doing exactly what YOU told them to do:  NOTHING!  The republican voters dislike President Obama so much that they gave their Senators and Representatives a mandate to block anything that the Democrats even remotely wanted to see pass.  They dislike President Obama so damn much that they are willing to see the Supreme Court deadlocked on crucial issues rather than to get up off their collective ass and hold a confirmation hearing.  And the Republicans are still cheering them on.

Not mad enough yet?  Let me provide you with a few more facts.

  • The current salary (2016) for rank-and-file members of the House and Senate is $174,000 per year.
  • Senate and House majority and minority leader’s salary is $193,400 per year.
  • Speaker of the House salary is $223,500 per year.
  • Along with their salaries, benefits and allowed outside income, the members of the U.S. Congress are provided with various allowances intended to defray expenses related to carrying out their congressional duties. (They receive this, even though they are not actually carrying out their duties!)

I will save you the bother of doing the math:  This amounts to $93,217,000 in salaries alone that your Congress is being paid this year alone to do nothing!  I don’t know what you make in a year, but in my best years, I made about .05% of this.  And I produced visible results in my job!

Which brings us to this week. Congress is playing games with the safety of our nation and acting as if they believe the American public is a group of stupid, stupid people who will fall for almost anything they do … or should I say don’t do!

On Monday, there were four gun measures up for vote by the Senate.  They were not drastic measures, but merely an attempt to block people on terrorist watch lists from being able to buy a gun, and close loopholes in existing laws regarding background checks.  They would not have expanded background checks.  They would not have even banned assault-type weapons.  They were very mild measures.  Also attached to the measures was another proposal to take passports away from suspected terrorists.

  • Senator Mark Kirk, Republican of Illinois, voted for both bills.
  • Senator Kelly Ayotte, Republican of New Hampshire, voted for the terror watch list bill but against the background checks bill.
  • Senator Heidi Heitkamp, Democrat of North Dakota, voted against the terror watch list bill and the background checks bill.
  • Senator John Tester of Montana, and Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, both Democrats, both voted against the background checks bill.

Other than the above exceptions, every Republican Senator voted ‘against’ all four measures, and every Democratic Senator voted ‘For’ all four measures.  What a shameless display of pointless and selfish partisanship, what an unwillingness to work as a team to do what is best for the nation.  And you want to know the really sad part?  Citizens from both parties were infuriated at this negligence, even though half of them sent these shameless idiots to Congress with a mandate to do exactly what they did … nothing!  I have a right to be angry, but anybody who voted a Republican Senator or Representative into this 112th Congress gave up their right to be angry.  Go dance in the damn streets if you want to, but I think you will not be doing much happy-dancing after November 8th!

But wait …. I am not yet finished.  It gets even worse.  The people were angry after Monday’s failed vote, since 90% of voters in both parties support some common-sense gun regulation, and they were calling for blood on social media, fueled by the mainstream media.  I saw posts, true or not, showing Senators playing solitaire on their computers, playing on Facebook, and doing almost anything but what they were being paid to do.  There were calls for blood flowing everywhere.  Democratic Senators must have thought they better do something and quick, lest they lose the advantage they currently anticipate from the down-vote in November, so they put on a little dog-and-pony show for our benefit!  They staged a ‘sit-in’.  According to NBC News, “Georgia congressman John Lewis deployed a strategy from his days as a civil rights activist and coupled it with social media to stage a dramatic sit-in Wednesday on the House floor with his fellow Democrats to force a vote on gun control — and disrupt political business as normal well into the night.”  I have immense respect for the role John Lewis played in the Civil Rights movement, but … sorry, guys … far too little, far too late, and far too ineffectual to count as doing anything other than sitting.  It was a publicity stunt designed to try to make the citizens (read: voters) think that they were really working hard to “get ‘er done”.  Some, apparently fell for it, however, as one of my friends who I once thought was relatively intelligent sent me a message saying that I had to watch it, that it was so exciting, and that this was ‘history in the making’.  My reply to her?  “Ho hum.”

The House has also staged a ‘sit in’ which is certain to be equally ineffective, though some say it is having the effect of creating new energy within the Democratic Party.  That’s nice.  However, the whole ‘sit-in’ thing is a huge media circus and the one result that it is certain to garner is to drive the two parties even farther apart than before.  It will not change the mind of a single Republican Congressperson on the issue of gun control.  I repeat … It will not change the mind of a single Republican Congressperson on the issue of gun control.  It is done merely in an attempt to convince the public that Democratic Representatives and Senators are ‘serious’ about gun control.  Toot … toot … toot.  I am not impressed.

Another reason that the Republicans will not change their small minds about gun control is that they are receiving a lot of money from none other than the National Rifle Association (NRA).  Check out this  link to see which Congressmen have received money from the NRA and in what amounts.  Fully 44 Senators and 249 Representatives have received blood money from the NRA. My income for a whole year is less than what some of these jerks have accepted from the NRA!

cracker jackThe men and women of the 112th Congress do not represent the public interest.  They do not represent me or you, they have no concern for your safety, your ability to earn a decent living, nor your health.  They do not care if tomorrow finds you dead or alive.  They care only about their comfort and safety and about winning the next election.  If you have not traded your brain for a box of Cracker Jacks, vote them out of office in November.  Otherwise, enjoy your Cracker Jacks while you watch the election returns and cry on November 8th.  Think about it … if you can.