white man holding a sign that says "hug a Trump supporter"

Scumbags for Sanders?

My friends who like Bernie Sanders keep telling me that he disavows the bros and toxicity that his supporters are known for. Then yesterday the Sanders campaign proudly tweeted the endorsement of an absolutely hateful scumbag, Joe Rogan.

It’s one thing to accept an endorsement from someone you don’t entirely agree with, it’s entirely another to EMBRACE AND HIGHLIGHT it as a sign of the kind of support you have. Especially given the deficit of trust Sanders already has, this sends a clear message to marginalized people that we will be thrown under the bus at the first opportunity to get some sexist, homophobic white nationalists on board.

I voted for Sanders in 2016, and I will be glad to vote for him (maybe even volunteer) in the general election if he wins the primary. But I absolutely will not support him when I have progressive alternatives like Elizabeth Warren who clearly actually gives a crap about people like me (and you). And I am also having a hard time swallowing friends’ continued support for Sanders. I can’t help but trust people a little less when I see you still defending him.

I didn’t know about Rogan before, I think he does something sporty? So here is more context:

Here is the absolute most important reason that this really matters:

A Black woman in her 80s wearing a t-shirt that says "I had an abortion."

I had an abortion. I also have white privilege.

I have the same shirt as 86-year-old Florence Rice in this photo. But thanks to quite a bit of privilege in my life, I don’t have the same story.

instagram.com/p/B5xo2skAnWU

Florence Rice, 86 (at the time the photo was taken), was raised in the foster care system in NYC. She saw her mother only a handful of times throughout her childhood. When she got pregnant as a young single woman in the 1930’s she decided to have the baby. A few years later as a working single mother, she found herself pregnant again and knew that she didn’t want to be like her mother – unable to take care for the child. She made the decision to have an abortion. Unfortunately, she received her abortion from an illegal provider, and contracted a serious illness afterwards.
In 1969 when feminists began speaking out about their abortions, Florence was one of the first to do so. Her story underscored a class divide: richer women got safer abortions, poorer women were more likely to end up at a butcher.

– Tara Todras-Whitehill, instagram.com/p/B5xo2skAnWU

Congressional Slut Shaming

The more I think about Congresswoman Katie Hill resigning the more pissed off I get. The fact is she could have stayed in Congress and served her district while admitting and atoning for her mistakes (like so many Republicans have made), except that her ex-husband is punishing her by illegally sharing private files.

It’s this dangerous SLUT SHAMING that made her resign, not her own actions. And as a result, women (especially those of us that are are also queer and ethically non-monogamous) get knocked back down a few pegs in society and lose an advocate in Congress.

Mother and son walking away from the camera in a park, with long shadows behind them

A Mom’s Abortion Story

 I was 17 and looking forward to escaping high school and going to college. 

12th grade school potrait in the late 80's

I was independent, an only child raised by busy single parents with their own social lives. I was intelligent, but insecure. I used sex as a way to get affection and feel wanted. I dropped by an older friend’ house one boring spring afternoon, and one thing led to another. I asked him to put on a condom, but he ignored me. Maybe you would have the confidence to stop things right then. I didn’t.

And so I found myself in the summer before my senior year of high school trying to have a normal teen-aged good time and avoiding the slowly dawning realization that there was a reason my clothes were fitting differently, that I ate an entire jar of pickles in 10 minutes, that I nearly passed out one hot day. 

When I finally admitted to myself that I was pregnant, I began to imagine how life with a baby would work in a dormitory at UNC-Chapel Hill, where I hoped to attend. I had envisioned what a great mom I would be for years, it was just happening a lot sooner than I had expected. The fact that I thought that living with a baby and a roommate in a dorm room was something I could handle, or even something that would ever be permitted by the university, should let you know how ill-equipped I was to parent anyone at that age. 

In the fall, I finally came clean to my father. He took it well, in his characteristically chill fashion, but he was not about to let me keep dreaming that I could have a baby and go to college at the same time. His girlfriend, at the time, was a sophisticated woman, a professional art dealer who took care of herself. She was a Republican, which made it even more surprising when she sat down with me one day to share the story of the abortion that she had in college. More than anyone else, she helped to convince me I would be a much better parent if I waited.  If I focused on college and getting my professional life started, I would have the financial means and emotional maturity to parent well. 

By the time I went to an OB/GYN, I was well into my second trimester. Fortunately, I was able to have a late-term abortion in a local hospital. It was a horrible experience, but one which I have never regretted. If many Republican lawmakers had their way, I wouldn’t have had that option. Instead I would have been forced into motherhood before even graduating from high school. Instead of earning a degree in environmental science and beginning what would eventually turn into a successful career as a nonprofit technologist, I would probably have been working a minimum wage job and caught in a cycle of poverty that would be hard to break with a baby to take care of and no education.

I always held on to the idea that I was saving my mothering talents for the right time. Many years later, that time came for me. I was in a committed partnership with someone who wanted to be a parent with me. I don’t judge others who become parents in other conditions, but this was how I wanted to do it at the time. We got married, bought a house, and set about trying to make a baby. Before long, I was pregnant. But just at the very end of the first trimester, I started to bleed and I realized it was over. I had a miscarriage that was incredibly painful both emotionally and physically. After waiting a lifetime to be the mother I had always dreamed of, I was afraid that I might now be unable to conceive.

After a lot of thought, I realized that I would still have a complete and satisfying life even if I never had a biological child. And you can guess what happened once I stopped worrying. Of course, I got pregnant again. This time my pregnancy went perfectly – even if the doctors did insist on calling me “geriatric” for being over 35. Twenty years after my abortion, I gave birth to a perfect, healthy and wanted baby.

I’ll never be the world’s best mom, but in those 20 years I didn’t just build a career and buy a house. I found spiritual grounding as a Buddhist. I volunteered on municipal and nonprofit boards, and became an influential activist for a variety of causes. I made the world a better place and improved myself in the process.

Boy smiling with his mother's arm around him

I’m able to give my son a global perspective and help him find his own ways to grow up and give back. This year he started 5th grade and I am so grateful that I was able to bring him into the world intentionally and give him a life where he is well cared for and free to explore and become the creative whirlwind he is destined to be. He is all the proof I need that I made the right decision three decades ago.

The more I talk about my abortion, the more I hear from others who had them too. The more I realize that this experience I kept secret from even my closest friends at the time was actually incredibly common. 

The more I talk about my abortion, the more other people realize their choices were valid too. Maybe their family will never understand, maybe their coworkers wouldn’t like it, but they should feel no shame for making the decisions they did. There is not a single elected official in the world that knows better than we do what we should do with our bodies or how we should live our lives.

My story was originally published at https://www.womenadvancenc.org/2019/07/22/abortion-was-the-right-choice-for-me/

unbalanced rocks

Halfway between moral and immoral = nowhere

In There’s Nothing Virtuous About Finding Common Ground, Tayari Jones asks “When we revisit our shameful past, ask yourself, Where was the middle? Rather than chattel slavery, perhaps we could agree on a nice program of indentured servitude? “

Or maybe we can “compromise” on abortion and just let rich people get them? Yeah, NO.

As a Buddhist I must tell you that the “middle” is rarely the place of balance.

I strive to see the Buddha nature (good potential) in every human. Even the cretin in the White House. In fact, it’s not hard for me to see how much he is suffering from his own delusions and fears. But that doesn’t mean I have to see things his way. Understanding his motivations can be useful, but there’s nothing I can do to make people like him listen to me without severely compromising my own values.

Which brings me to the point of this work, making the world a better place. One of the reasons that most Democrats have been unable to win is that for the past 25 years they have been trying to sell themselves as friendlier Republicans. To win long-term they need a compelling vision that energizes voters and emphasizes progressive values (a la Lakoff‘s Don’t Think of an Elephant). Instead they’ve been letting consultants lead them by the nose to eke out marginal victories based on big money tactics. They occasionally win the battle for votes but they lose the war for hearts and minds. The Overton Window shifts ever rightward and now we are debating whether trans people have rights and whether migrant children should be treated like human beings.

Which brings me back to the strategic futility (as well as moral failure) of trying to compromise with people who want to annihilate us. I’m not saying to write them off. They are people too, and frankly they need help to come back to a place of love and humanity. But validating their hateful and counterfactual ideas won’t do that.

(I edited this post to add some thoughts that I wrote in response to en e-mail discussion of Jones’s article.)

Das Andere Deutschland's final issue, announcing its own prohibition on the basis of the Reichstag fire decree.

How to get away with fascism

  1. Stoke paranoia. Deprive, dehumanize, physically weaken, and isolate people.
  2. Cause/provoke crisis. (Or at minimum, ensure government is not prepared to handle inevitable crisis. Hurricane, anyone?)
  3. Justify consolidation of power and suspension of human rights, civil society, and democracy.

Do you know about the politics of Weimar Germany when Hitler rose to power because the establishment thought they could use the Nazis and bend them to their own will? Do you know about the Reichstag Fire which Hitler leveraged just a month after becoming Chancellor to effectively end democracy and civil liberties in Germany? Can you tell me any reason that it couldn’t happen here? All the groundwork is already in place. 

Real news about fake news

Speaking of facts, I was thrilled to see that CNN picked up on the story about fake women’s march pages last I blogged about last month. The reporter, Donie O’Sullivan, first heard about it from the Maine Women’s March, but when he researched the issue he found my blog post! I spoke with him on the phone about it last week and was nearly interviewed on camera but for some CNN logistics.

He used my Facebook post as the lede for the story! Here’s an excerpt:

New York (CNN) — Ruby Sinreich knew “something didn’t smell right” as soon as she responded to a Facebook invite this summer for the 2019 Women’s March in Raleigh, North Carolina.

A web developer and long-time activist, Sinreich grew suspicious when she noticed the page was posting what she recently called “weird, partisan memes that seemed totally out of character.” Then she saw that the event page was promoting the wrong date for the 2019 march.

No one she knew in the activism community in North Carolina seemed to know who was behind the event. Besides, it was August, months before January’s Women’s March, and local organizers had yet to post the details for the march online.

“This is *exactly* how the Russians/Republicans have been manipulating our communication, politics, and elections for over 2 years now,” she wrote in a Facebook post in August in which she warned her friends about the page.

Sinreich wasn’t alone. Activists in Maine, Vermont, and elsewhere began noticing similar event pages advertising marches in their cities and listing the wrong date.

But the pages were not run by the Russian trolls who meddled in the US’ 2016 election, and have continued doing so since. They were run from Bangladesh, a CNN investigation has found — and they were designed to exploit Americans’ interest in politics and protests in order to sell t-shirts.

In all, there were 1,700 separate Facebook pages designed to look like they were run by local Women’s March organizers, a source familiar with Facebook’s investigation into the issue told CNN.

“There are a lot of ways that it is damaging and dangerous. People show up on the wrong date and don’t go to the actual event. People leave feeling angry and frustrated instead of feeling unified,” Sinreich told CNN.

Other organizers told CNN that they communicate safety and emergency information through Facebook for their events. When a fake page that real activists have no control over becomes popular, it prevents them from reaching some people who might need that information.

– Exclusive: Women’s March target of elaborate Facebook scam run from Bangladesh.
By Donie O’Sullivan, CNN Business. Updated 7:19 AM ET, Thu October 18, 2018

Just some of the criminals of the GOP

Call Republicans what they are: criminals

I am not saying that every single registered Republican is a criminal. But I can state with confidence that their elected leadership especially in the North Carolina General Assembly, the Congress of the United States, and the White House are lawless, unethical, greedy, and yes, criminals. This isn’t speculation. These are facts.

Just in the case of gerrymandering alone the courts have struck down GOP actions again and again, and yet they have not corrected the districts. Mitch McConnell and many others in Congress actively worked to cover up foreign collusion in our election. Then in the White House there’s money laundering, selling influence, profiting from the office (ie: emoluments). And I haven’t even gotten into the absolutely unconstitutional treatment of migrants, and concentration camps for children!

These acts are against the laws of the United States of America. Just because hardly anyone has been convicted doesn’t make it any less illegal. It just shows how very deep the rot in our system actually is. Why not call it criminal?

I know these words sound shocking, but it’s our lack of stomach for looking this ugly truth in the eye that has let it advance as far as it has. Trump is the head of crime family and has been for many years. He also has no demonstrable understanding of lawmaking or governing. Why did the media treat him as some kind of normal candidate? Why do reporters continue to repeat his words when we know that he’s lying?

We cannot continue this polite business-as-usual or we will continue to ride this train straight into the next holocaust. History will not judge us kindly.

Flippable districts according to Swing Left

We have to do a lot more than voting, but vote we must

The Washington Post writes today that a survey of battleground House districts shows Democrats with [a] narrow edge. But you know those elections aren’t going to win themselves. Thanks to gerrymandering, the votes of people like me who are packed into safe Democratic districts won’t make much difference. But there are potentially-swing districts in North Carolina. It’s a much more diverse state than the leaders of the N.C. General Assembly would have us believe, and there are still some districts where voters can chose their representatives instead of the other way around.

Flippable districts according to Swing Left

Flippable districts according to Swing Left

Look at all these places within driving distance of cities in NC where we can be supporting Democratic campaigns right now. 👉🏽

Indivisible/Flip NC is organizing canvasses in districts right here in the Triangle and I will be joining them to knock on doors next weekend (thanks in part to a nudge from a civic-minded friend). It’s not the most fun way to spend my free time, but I won’t be able to live with myself if we miss this opportunity to reduce the power of of the most greedy, craven, imperialist, chauvinist, white supremacist political party I’ve seen in my lifetime.

As I have been saying over and over: if one more person tells me we can vote our way our of this mess I am going to scream. Given extreme gerrymandering, voter suppression, Russian manipulation, billionaire megadonors, media complicity, nihilist Republicans, and feckless Democrats there is only so much that voting can do, and we have to vote circles around the Republicans just to win something slightly closer to representative. We have to do a lot more than voting, but vote we must.