Tag Archive: the serious stuff


The Wait is Over

When Trump was first elected, people said wait it out. They said to give him a chance.

Then he began tweeting about Saturday Night Live and vote numbers and Happy New Years greetings to his enemies

womes-march-chicagoBy the time he was about to be inaugurated, I knew from his behavior and cabinet choices what he said during the election was true.

So I chose to march on the 21st. Did it proudly and didn’t throw it in people’s faces.

I hear people call the marchers lazy, “why don’t they go to work?” I had support from several friends who couldn’t go because they were working.

I saw women post the reaction about why they are proud that they didn’t march. They can’t believe others would because we have so many rights and women in other countries don’t. But what they refused to understand is that our marching was not only for our rights in this country but women around the world. Even women in the Antarctic marched. Womens’ Rights are Human Rights.

People want these marchers to shut up and go home. Back in October, there was a New York Post article that came out to say stop posting political stuff on Facebook and Twitter. Yeah, that’s not happening. Especially as 45 keeps at it. (I am not calling the orange one by his name, only his number).

So when 45 issues an illegal Executive Order, such as the Muslim Ban, I am speaking out. Bannon and co. think if they only talk about Islam as a political movement then it won’t be a religion, and any orders about the Islamic people are constitutional. That’s as silly as Paleonistas stating beans aren’t a real food.

When uninformed and uninterested persons are being nominated for cabinet positions, I am speaking out by calling my senators ad nauseum. I am calling my representative to make sure they get the tally mark for my opinion. (When calling your rep or senator state your name, your zip code, and your issue. Leave the reasons why out, just say the basics.)

Let me make something clear to 45, Bannon, Sessons, Pence, Gorsuch, the Alt Right, and their followers. All those people you hate are living beings. They are out of the closet, out of the apron, out of the plantation. None of us are going back. NONE. OF.US.

We like working so that we can provide for our families. We like being able to live wherever we want. We like being able to have health care and the medications we need covered by that health insurance. We like being able to pray in our churches, in our synagogues, in our mosques. We like not having to go to church if we don’t feel like it.

diverse-colorful-happy-peopleWhat we want is to be able to live and work and worship as we see fit. And, just like you, we do not want to be judged for the things that are none of your business – our religion, who we sleep with, the color of our skin. We want to walk in this world knowing we are not going to get shot, get raped, get bullied, -and have all the blame dropped at our feet – just because we are there.

What we want is the feeling you have everyday. And what you need to understand is that you will lose nothing in letting that happen. You might gain something. In words paraphrased from “Hamilton,” the world is wide enough for all of us.

All of us.

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Keep Wearing the Hat

So this past weekend, we put on our hats. We marched in our cities, and big towns, and small towns, and on a boat. We held all sorts of signs letting people know that women’s rights are human rights.

But the days following has seen plenty of blow back.

“Why are these women marching?”

“I have plenty of rights.”

“Those hats look stupid, take them off.”

“After marching, the ladies were home in time to make supper.”

“Why don’t they just give the money it cost to go to the march to a charity?”

Don’t get discouraged. Saturday was a great and terrible day. I was amazed by all who showed up to protest, to make our voices heard. But I was saddened that we still need to do this, tell people that women have rights and deserve rights. Women is our country do not deserve to be beaten by significant others. Women in other countries deserve to move freely, go to school, and receive proper medical care.

However, if you are reading all of the stories and some fighting within march participants, don’t give up. This is only the beginning and the start can be rough. Now is the time when we congeal and find our collective voice.  An article in USA today gives some ideas on what to do next.

I like this because we need to have a direction for our anger and frustration. We need to be focused. So let me add my list to what we can do until the next march in April.

  1. pussy-hatContinue to wear the hat. Yes, it is awkward and not in your usual color.                                                                                                                   So what!                                                                                                                Someone made that hat for you. It may not have taken a lot of time on their part but wear it with pride. Until you put away winter stuff, wear your hat wherever you go. Bring it our again in the fall. You are sending a signal to others who wanted to go and couldn’t. You are that safe person they can talk to. And when the haters come to yell at you, don’t yell back, don’t swear at them. Tell them you believe what you believe and move on.
  2. Put your senators and representative on speed dial on your cell phone. Call them daily or weekly, especially when an issue you cherish is on the line.
  3. volunteer-graphicPick an issue and work for it. Maybe it is Standing Rock or Planned Parenthood or Immigration Rights. Find one that speaks to your interests and passions. Then do the hard part and give them money and/or your time – every month.
  4. Build your community. Volunteer at a food pantry or mentor program or youth program. Be a coach or a helper for the Girl Scouts or tutor school children or help seniors in your neighborhood. It can be something short and sweet or a longer commitment but do something that makes you feel better about where you live. Grab some friends to join you in this endeavor.
  5. Help get people out for the vote. If you know someone who is not registered but wants to vote, take them to get the paperwork completed. If someone you know had issues with their registration, help them get it sorted now so they can vote in upcoming primaries. Voters need to develop a pattern of voting and by taking care of that now, those votes will matter more next time.  Imagine if each of us helped one person to have the right to vote.
  6. iPhone crass

    Picture by Crass

    Plan one day a week to be totally offline. No social media, no phone games, no texting or e-mail (maybe just reduce this last one to the most important stuff.) Use this time to relax, sleep late, walk the dog, or clean your home.

  7. Lastly, plan one day a week to have fun. You can do this on the same day you go offline. Plan a visit with friends. Take in a meal or go to a museum or the library or a long walk in a state park. Throw a pot luck game night. You need to do this to re-charge and take care of yourself. After all, if you spend all your time being earnest, you become of bit dull and overbearing to your friends.

I know some of you are frustrated. I know some of you are feeling disheartened. Maybe this list is overwhelming. Start with baby steps by starting with the hat. Every week add one of the steps until you have all of them. Soon, you will know that you are doing something – a lot of somethings – to improve your immediate world and the bigger issues.

Just remember to be kind, to make your message without swearing, without profanity, without sexual innuendo. We don’t need to be violent or destroy property.  We are doing something infinitely much scarier.

We are speaking up, together.

dont-be-silent

Transitioning

It is finally the week of the inauguration.

Despite my fears of the Trump administration – Muslim Registry, loss of health insurance, decreased rights for women, decreased rights for the LGBT community, loss of first amendment rights for the press and citizens – it is a weekend to be filled with pomp, circumstance, and speeches. The parades and balls will be incredible.

melaniaAs this week has come closer, I began to realize how sorry I felt for Melania.

She did not run for this office. She tends to be a private person and does not live in the spotlight. I am guessing the various pictorial spreads of their penthouse was a real intrusion.

However, at this time the real invasion is about to start. Maybe Melania thought the press was everywhere she went before. But now, oh, it is going to be 1000 times worse. Every dress, every outfit, every decision she makes in the East Wing is going to be scrutinized. Granted, the first six months will be easier because she is staying in New York City with Barron.

After that, she can expect criticism for the simplest of decisions, be it how she decorates the family quarters or any trips she takes or how she talks of her choice social issue. Staffing issues will be leaked and god forbid her husband steps into whatever fray there may be on Twitter. No one will let her forget past mistakes or photo shoots.

I say this because I have seen the comment pages on any article about Melania. There are those who praise her for being a class act and those who bring up the nude photos every chance they get. I have heard her called some vile names that may or may not be true. It’s not cool, not right, not classy no matter which side of the aisle you sit. But this is what we do to first ladies, right?

michelle-vera-wangMichelle Obama has been called some awful names and imagined to be a man. Her fight on childhood obesity has been vilified. Her dress choices have been scorned. Doesn’t matter that she went to an Ivy League university and law school. Or that she held a very prestigious position before going to the White House. This happened with other first ladies, including Pat Nixon, Nancy Reagan, and Hillary Clinton.

Soon enough, Trump’s years will be over and we can look forward to the weekly headlines in the scandal rags about how Melania is filing for divorce. Just like they do for every presidential couple at the end of their term, including both sets of Bush presidents.

Wait, I saw that last week on the side of my Facebook feed.

Good luck, Melania. You’re going to need it.

Facts are Friends

There are times in our life that being right really matters.

My husband and I have this conversation often as another inane argument over some minor details rolls on until we are both yelling at each other.

It ends with me yelling “Is it more important to be right or do right?”

By that I mean sometimes it is important to give up arguing to prove you’re right when it doesn’t matter. Such as when your batty aunt insist the dinner plates are red when they are clearly blue. Just agree with her and keep her happy.

Sometimes, though, it does matter, and then being right and doing right is one and the same.

For instance, it is constantly coming up on my facebook feed that Trump won the popular vote as well as the electoral college. According to a false Google report Trump gained 62.9 while Hillary won 62.2. It’s usually followed by ‘Suck it up, cupcake. Your candidate lost. Big Time.’

You Trump fans want it to be true, I know. But this is one time where you’re not.  And it is a sad day when you have to lie about something that can so easily be fact checked. It took me all of five minutes as I went to a progressive site and choose to go to a more conservative site to have a second source.

The actual numbers run  at 62.4 million votes for Hillary and 61.2 million votes for Donald. That is according to The Nation, a progressive magazine who used The Cook Political Report as their source. Cook chooses to be non-partisan. And in case you think I am telling a fibber, it turns out that The National Review also thinks Hillary won the popular vote while losing the electoral college.  The National Review is one of those conservative bastions. (An expert stated on 11/20/16 that Hillary may have gotten nearly 2 Million more votes.)

So stop with the nana-nana-boo-boo bits. The woman won the popular vote, just not in the right places to make the electoral votes go in her favor. And we know that liking it is another thing all together. But when you lie about it, it makes the rest of us doubt every word you are saying about anything else.

Same goes with the story about the 11-year-old boy who was beaten-up in school. There is a video attributed to Fox26 in Houston. When I look for collaborating stories, I cannot find any. There is no other video or stories from other area TV Stations or newspapers in the area.

However, the amount of alt-right websites carrying this story has grown since  last week. Worse yet was when I thought I found call letters they started with a W. Any self respecting Texan who knows they are west of the Mississippi River knows that TV and radio stations begin with a “K” and not a “W.”

It is not necessary to make up these stories, as the young woman did in Louisiana regarding having her hajib torn from her head. Sure, you want to make people on the opposite side  look bad. Trust me on this, they don’t need your help. There is the real crime of a Trump voter who got beaten up in Chicago along with an uptick in hate crimes against Jews, Muslims, and others since the election.

Lying about something happening to you by a member of the opposite political party or about the numbers in which your candidate beat the other is not the way to be credible. You want to have something to say, prove your point about your view of things.

Then take my suggestion – use facts whenever possible.

 

 

 

 

What Are You?

It is two days after the election and Donald Trump is now are president.

Let that sink in for a moment. because one of the more interesting trends I am seeing with my Trump-loving friends is shock and surprise that they are being seen as racist, white supremacist, uneducated.

“I am not that,” they are saying. “The evil press is depicting me like that.”

So the question that must be asked is this: If you vote for a candidate, do you hold some of his qualities, all of his qualities, or none?

trump-hillary

If I am to be frank, Trump said some things in this campaign that were truly deplorable.

If you voted for him do you believe what he says, do you believe his statements to be true or do you vote for his promise to make America great again?

Conversely, I voted for Hillary. Does that mean I am corrupt and willing to bend the rules to make them fit for me?

In asking that, I want to make sure I get it. There are times that I have seen Trump supporters be awful. They cold-cocked a black protesters as he was being lead out of the arena. They kick the wheel chair of a boy with cerebral palsy as he was being lead out. They screamed at a Muslim woman as she silently stood, and wore tee-shirts saying ‘Trump that Bitch.’

On the other hand, Hillary called Trump supporters ‘deplorables.’ A Muslim father  of a dead soldier ask Trump what he sacrificed for this country. Various Clinton supporters called Trump unfit for office, citing his inability to control emotions on his twitter account.

All the same, am I and others voters in this country similar to the candidate we vote for – with all of their good and bad traits? Am I a liar with a need to protect my privacy at all costs? Are Trump voters haters to the extreme?

It is tempting to paint the two camps with one paint brush for each. Liars and law-breakers, haters and violent asses.

The problem in all of this is that we are neighbors. There are no distinct areas of only Hillary voters and only Trump voters. We live next to each other and in the same towns.  Can we work to Make America Stronger Together?

Maybe not today or this week. But we are going to have to do it soon. Because the problems we face may not be solved by big government, it might be better to work with each other in our own communities. And to make all that happen, we need to let go of our pre-conceived notions.

Are you willing to try?

workingtogether

 

 

It has been over two weeks since the video of Trump was released to the public.

We heard a reality TV star, the one now running for president, state that he can grab pussy whenever he likes because he is famous and women will let him get away with doing that.

trump-videoBut every time I hear that phrase or hear people defend his words, I get uncontrollably angry.  I know there is someone freaking out and reliving a memory she doesn’t want to remember of someone grabbing her because they had to power and ability to ride over her objections.

I am not sure what is worse, him saying it, even if it was ten years ago, or people defending it.  They say it is boy talk or locker room talk or what men say all of the time when women are not around.

I have heard men blow it off, relegate it to the trash. And then there are other men who state that in their locker rooms, this is not how they talk.

That doesn’t stop Trump, his wife, and other men say it was nothing and this is how men speak.

It leaves me wondering about every man I know. Does he speak this way with other men? Does he realize that participating in this talk upholds rape culture? Does this mean the men I know who quietly condone this talk also quietly condone behavior that is rape?

And then I realize that if they do quietly condone rape, if they never speak out against this type of talk, that I cannot trust them. If this is OK in their eyes when speaking with other men, is it okay to act out on those words? Is discussion about rape normal for all men or most men or only some men?

I don’t know and that scares me. It scares me not just for my own sake but for my daughter and her friends and any woman. Who knew that making America great again meant putting women in their place as sexual objects for men like this?

Trump isn’t talking about what he would like to do or what he wishes he could do to women he finds attractive. He is talking about past action. That he kissed beautiful women, that he grabbed pussy. That he violated a woman’s personal private area.

I could be paranoid or crazy. Except I know I am not. Women know what he meant by that phrase. We know from our daily experiences of guys trying to get a quick feel, or tell us to smile or say hello, or cat-calling vulgarities in our direction that a stranger’s propriety behavior over our bodies is not going away..

It works on our sense of safety, our sense of comfort. When we see our males friends agreeing with that statement of locker room talk, that sense of safety shrinks a little more. It makes me feel scared, it makes me feel like crawling up in a corner and hiding from the world, it makes me mad as hell and not wanting to take it anymore.

I and other women are not your toy, your plaything, your sexual release – especially if permission was not given.

What do these men care? All that Mr. Trump, and men who agree with his ‘locker room talk,’ want to do is grab pussy and to hell with it being permitted.

That’s just not okay. To talk about it like that is not normal because rape is not normal. Grabbing pussy without permission is not normal. When men engage in ‘locker room talk’ and condone it, they condone the behavior that is not normal.

How many times do we have to say this behavior, this speech is not normal?

We say it until people finally understand that rape is never a crime of passion or lust. Rape is a crime of overpowering someone to do your will in the most intimate ways possible.

That is most offensive of all.

 

 

 

 

 

A few months ago I read an interesting article by a woman who is Type One diabetic. She talked about the mis-understandings people have about her illness, how much people don’t understand.

What people do not understand is that Type One develops when a person is young and will never go away. What people don’t understand is how she can manage her diet and still eat most of what she wants. What people don’t understand is that medication alone will not control her illness, she must take insulin. There are no cures by eating Iceberg Lettuce or Okra or Cinnamon pills.

And one of the things she gets pissed about is having her chronic illness confused with Type Two diabetes. Because, after all, people with Type Two are just lazy. If they ate right and exercised, they wouldn’t have this illness anymore.

diabetesOh, I wish that was true.

Since last August the monster I was always terrified of reared its ugly head. My blood glucose numbers were at high levels, enough that my doctor called me and told me to pick up my new medication and start taking it immediately. My A1C was a 12. I knew I was tired but I also work a lot along with a bunch of volunteering.

The diagnosis came after I worked to lose weight and change my diet. I exercised and stopped eating white bread, white sugar, white rice. I saw my belly get smaller and I thought I had made headway. I managed to lose 40+ pounds and thought I was safe.

But no.

At first I was able to get my A1C down to 7.3. I worked harder, walked more, gave up soda and flavored coffee. Instead of losing weight, as I had seen other friends do after their diagnosis, I gained weight especially in the tummy area. So I doubled down, made sure I did that mile walk minimum daily. I ate more salads and only dark chocolate. I don’t eat after 9 pm and drink a ton of water. And my morning numbers are still high.

So much for dieting and exercise.

The sad fact is that Type Two diabetes is hereditary. Just being in certain ethnic groups puts you at risk, such as African, Asian, Native American, Latino, or Pacific Islander ancestry. If your parent is Type Two, there is a 10-15% chance their child will have it. Both of my parents, one grandparent from each side, and at least one great-grandparent on each side had it. Worse yet, I was gestational diabetic with almost all of my pregnancies. My last child weighed ten pounds.

Lately, I have felt as if I was a sitting duck and there was no avoiding this diagnosis.

diabetes vegetablesThe truth is, you don’t get Type Two without a genetic pre-deposition. My mother is a thin woman who walks regularly. She does not fit the profile while I do with the extra bit of weight and two desk jobs. We are both dealing with Type Two but she doesn’t have to take insulin. I do.

You can talk to me about alternative treatments because I am willing to listen. I might even be willing to try it. But don’t sit there telling me I am lazy and not willing to work the diet. Don’t sit there and tell me if I just work it, I will be cured.

It might be comforting in some weird way to think that Type One and Type Two are different beasts altogether. It’s like you want to have a pity party because your illness is worse. Sounds like the kind of fights that happen between autistic moms who tell Asperger moms their kids aren’t really autistic because their kid is functioning while a different kid will never be able to take care of themselves or talk or get out of bed.

At their essences, both forms of diabetes are the same. The body has too much glucose and the pancreas cannot do its job without supplemental assistance. I can’t just lose weight by exercising and working my diet to make it my Type Two diabetes go away. I have tried. And I really resent people who don’t get it, even fellow diabetics.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have to go to bed. Getting plenty of sleep is one way to control your sugar numbers, so I hear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That Box

Because of the new bathroom laws, I am seeing memes and video posts in which men are saying they are doing this to protect their women and girls from rape.

Texas-Sheriff-Transgender Meme

 

WARNING!!!! I am about to let loose some opinions that will not please people.

You know, as much as I appreciate the concern for my safety and my daughter’s safety and the safety of all women out there, I can think of a few things that might actually do a better job than bathroom laws.

  1. Believe Rape Victims. How do rapists get away with what they do? The first thing a woman reporting a raped is asked “What did  you do that sent the wrong signal?” or “Why should we believe you because you are a known whore, liar, druggie, female, or all of the above?” We are not believed that all we did was be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Worse yet, every guy has a story in the back of his head about how some guy’s life was ruined by a false allegation.                                                                                                                                                                           That is what rapists such as Daniel Holtzclaw count on. The former Oklahoma City police officer was convicted on 18 out of 36 charges of rape and sexual assault in January 2016. His thirteen victims included a 17-year-old and a 58-year-old grandmother.Most of his victims lived in the poor part of the city and have a history of arrests for drug and prostitution charges.These women knew they were not going to be believed and did not report the sexual assaults. That is until Holtzclaw forced himself on Jannie Ligons during an unauthorized stop after his shift was done. She reported his behavior which led to other discrepancies in Holtzclaw’s records.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Yes, some women do lie about being raped, some have regrets about sexual behavior, or are forced to call it rape by their parents. But most women don’t lie and they don’t tell because they know they won’t be believed.

 

2.        Test the Rape Kits                                                                                                                     rape kit Strange things happens when rape kits get processed as they should.   Serial rapists, the ones that should frighten the bejesus out of everyone, get found. Cleveland found this out the hard way after two reporters, Rachel Dissel and Leila Atassi,  in 2010 began a series of stories in the Cleveland Plain Dealer about rape kits that were not processed.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Starting in 2011, 4000 rape kits were tested, 1600 kits held usable DNA, 350 cases were prosecuted,  leading to the conviction of 100 rapists. Another interesting fact came together, 30% were committed by serial rapists. These are the guys who don’t care who they assault, they just want the feel of power that comes from violating another human being. One man, Elias Acevado, confessed to a number of rapes, at least two murders, and the sexual abuse of three of his daughters. One of the girls thanked Dissel because she reported her father’s abuse but was not believed.                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Another strange result?   Violent crime is down in Cleveland.

3. End the Statue of Limitations on Rape and Sexual Abuse                                Whatever you might think about Dennis Hasert, his case showed that it is hard for people to come forward with allegations. Worse yet, the laws that were relaxed to make it possible for people to report abuse would not have helped Hasert’s victims as they were too old to report what happened by 2000 when Illinois changed their state laws saying you have until 20 years after your 18th birthday.                                                                                                                                                                                                                               While several states have no statute of limitations for sexual assault, especially that involving children, there is no single rule. Some might allow 3 years, others give you a ten-year time frame to report. The Bill Cosby case is making California consider a change to no statute of limitations because of the scope and length of time of his accusers. Ask Corey Feldman why he cannot file charges against the men who molested him.

4. Stop the ‘Boys will Be Boys’ ideology                                                                                      Would the athletes of Steubenville had been better served if they grew up thinking their actions do have consequences? That perhaps raping a passed-out girl and creating a video as they were doing it might have ruined their futures more than the girl filing an assault report?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Was the girl stupid for getting so drunk she passed out? Probable. But nor does that mean it was OKay to assault her. No way, no how. Stop telling boys their bad behavior is OKay, stop laughing at their sexist antics, stop playing along with them so adult men can feel like they are still one of the boys. Stop demonstrating to boys it is OKay to cat-call and comment on a woman’s tits, ass, or body as if it is your property despite the woman being a stranger.

Do we live in a rape culture? Yes and no. It is not as in your face as it is in some cultures. Instead, it is insidious. We are constantly told how to act without being told outright. We are judged constantly on our looks, on our dress, on what body parts we do or don’t have. And if we speak out – as Beyonce has started doing – we are told to be quiet, that our opinion is not needed. Those in charge will take care of everything.

The men in charge, the men not testing rape kits, the men raping the women.

If my opinion is not enough, listen to Samantha B tell it like it is in her own unique way.

Editor’s Note: I wrote this a week before the Brock Turner sentencing. I thought it would be a good idea to sit on this essay and make sure it was the right thing to post. I have no doubts anymore.

 

The last few weeks, my reading pile has included a variety of books whose focus is North Korea.

These were not easy books to read, in fact it was dammed dis-heartening. I read about a country suffering through near poverty while its leader lives the good life.

Well, when he is not having his mistress shot because his wife found out about the affair. Granted I have only hearsay for that one. But it is pretty certain that his uncle is dead after some of his bolder acts came to be known. The man disappeared and no one has seen him. It is assumed that he is dead – somewhere. If one story is true, it was a very public and nasty death.

esape from camp 14This does not surprise me. Especially after I finished reading Escape from Camp 14. This non-fiction book, which is currently up for the Lincoln Award, tells the story of a young man , named Shin, who was born in Camp 14, a brutal gulag meant for those who went against the government in some way. If that isn’t enough, the government gathers your family, have people ‘mate’ or marry so that they can punish your children.

It is the whole idea of punishing three generations of wrongdoers. People within the camp are taught to snitch on each other, to always work alone, and to never trust one another. God forbid if you try to escape and fail. Chances are you will shot or hung in front of a crowd so your mistakes are an example to everyone else.

Recently it has come out that Shin changed facts around such as his mother, brother, and himself were transferred to a different camp, and that one escape attempt led him to being repatriated to North Korea.

Reluctant CommunistIt could lead you to discount the whole story until you read The Reluctant Communist by Charles Robert Jenkins and Jim Frederick. Jenkins was stationed in South Korea during the 1960s. While this was his second stint in South Korea, it was one filled with depression and loneliness. After eight years in the service, the Sargent wanted to go home and not be sent to Vietnam. That is when he deserted the Army and walked over the border to North Korea. Jenkins thought he would be sent home to face a court martial.

Instead he lived 40 years in a country that was brutal in its rations of food and money. He knows he had it better than most of the citizens but he dealt with irregular heating, electric service, and food sources. He was lucky to meet a Japanese woman and to have a true love match. Other American captives were ‘given’ women or eventually given a woman for a wife.

Because the Japanese government came looking for their abducted citizen, Jenkins’ wife Hitomi, was allowed to go back home. It would take nearly two years of effort on the part of the Japanese government  to get Jenkins and his two daughters into Indonesia to re-unite the family.

I raced through this book but would read various passages again so that I could truly understand what happened to Charles and Hitomi.

Without You There is no UsThe book that started me on this journey is the memoir by Suki Kim, Without You, There is No Us. It details the time Kim spent as a teacher at a university in Pyongyang, teaching English to children of the Korean elite. But even here, life is not privileged. Food seldom tastes good, even if there is meat. The electric service is spotty. Everyone’s computer is bugged so officials know what you are looking up at all times which was a huge fear when one of the other teachers stated they googled each of their co-workers.

Private conversations can only be had if you walk outside in the compound. And there is no such thing as a private conversation with students. You never know who is an informant and who is a rebel.

Kim tried to subtly introduce Western ideas but came to realize that she was only putting her students, whom she grew to love, in danger. Field trips for the teachers pointed out the abject poverty of the people. With her students not even allowed visits from their parents until school break times, Kim wondered about the life that her students lead outside of the university, if they had any freedom or were able to see other students like themselves.

You might say “That Shin guy lied, couldn’t these others be lying, too?” The problem is that there are too many stories from too many defectors. Why would thousands of people lie so grandly if this country was better than what it appears to be?

Then this week I heard about the Wired magazine article that talks with a man who smuggles thumb drives filled with American TV shows into North Korea. These are easier to hide than DVDs, easier to move around.  In doing this, the smugglers hope to show North Koreans that Americans do not focus on how to destroy their tiny country at all hours of the day.

Once upon a time, about 70 years ago, we said never again to things like the Holocaust and genocide. But with examples from North Korea and ISIS and Darfur and the break up of Yugoslavia, I wonder if that is ever possible. The only thing I do know is that we must keep working against the evil that deems we must obey or die.

Get off your *** and vote

Tomorrow is the day.

Tomorrow is the final day for cards and letters in the mail telling us what a fool the other candidate is in their race. Tomorrow is the last day we will hear negative ads on the radio and TV.

Tomorrow is the day we vote.

Finally, I will get in the voting booth, hold my nose, and vote for the gubernatorial candidate who makes me wince less. Tomorrow, I tell a man who claims to run a small business what I think of him with my vote.

Picture by kenn kiser

Picture by kenn kiser

And I hope that you do,too.

While I want you to vote for my candidate, I understand if you have to hold your nose to do so as well.

Most importantly, I want people to vote. Too many people have sacrificed their life, their health, their freedom so that anyone besides a white male could have the right to vote. But when we sit on the couch and ignore what is supposed to happen, we are spitting in the face of every soldier and activist who put their lives on the line so we could vote.

I have had it said to me that only those who actually fight in wars should be the one who vote because they did the hardest thing of all. I wonder if that same person would say that to the teacher, the public safety worker, the public health workers who all had some part of their family’s life. They fight other battles as do our clergy and social service workers.

Quite frankly, when you start saying some people have the right to vote more than others, you forget what the American dream is about. The American dream is about freedom, of knowing that you can speak your opinion – no matter how wrong – and you do not have to worry about being dragged from your home in the middle of the night. If you work hard, you can acheive the American dream of prosperity.

Voting-boothBut there is one thing you have to do. Get up off the couch, away from the boob tube, walk out of your house and head over to your polling place. Once it is your turn, you go into the booth and vote. People aren’t going to throw acid on you for doing so. In America, we do not have to face the possibility of suicide bombers preventing the process. Gunfire should not be an issue. We go in and vote.

So let’s do it. Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.

Are you ready?