Speak Truth to Power

The Quakers are pacifists. “Speak truth to power” is part of the Quaker credo for seeking and maintaining peace in a troubled world. They recognize power as those responsible for making war, the groups who place people in positions of power, and the concept of power alone. Truth, in the Quaker tradition, stems from their age-old belief that love overcomes hate.

Being a pacifist in today’s world is not always popular and not an easy position to hold. It requires diligence and challenges us to maintain our strength even while faced with grim and stark realities.  I am a pacifist. Some may call that weak, but I don’t mind telling you that I also have a fiery temper and remaining a pacifist is a challenge of my strength almost daily. I am also a realist, yet always hold out a shred of optimism, for without that tiny bit of hope I would personally fall into the depths of depression pretty quickly. That’s not a pretty place to visit and having crawled out of it a couple of times in my life I prefer to not go back there.

I am also a former journalist. I got out of the news business years ago in order to seek a more stable lifestyle for raising my children. News doesn’t sleep, but parents must be there for our children. That was my moral imperative at the time and I have no regrets, especially since they seem to have turned out to be really good people.

For many years, I wrote and read news on the radio locally and wrote for a regional newspaper. People believed what I wrote and spoke. I was not accused of fabricating the news, nor degraded for reporting it. I even won a few awards for journalism back in the day. Despite a pivot in my career into communications for non-profits, my character and integrity have not changed.

The Presidential election this past week changed a lot of things. It did not change me. Although I no longer report the local news, I remain a student of government and news. I make a point of staying in touch with real world issues whether they are in my neighborhood, my country, or across the globe. Many Americans have chosen to shelter themselves from global problems as serious as famine and genocide because they are too busy working to keep their own lives together. I don’t fault them for that. I don’t fault people for feeling like they want a better life. We all do.

The results of the election did not go as I would have liked. I am not whining or complaining or despondent over it. I have not called people names. Despite being told for months that it’s okay to be politically incorrect, that’s not my style and never will be. I believe in civility and will be both courteous and kind. I will fight for change in the mid-term elections two years from now and in the Presidential election four years from now.

I will also speak truth to power. I will continue to point out injustice when it’s warranted. I will stand up for those who are protesting this election because they have First Amendment rights in this country. Here’s a refresher on the First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Here are the facts:

  1. Donald Trump won the Electoral College vote. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, by more than 600,000 votes at the latest count.
  2. Voter turnout was incredibly low. Just 55% of eligible voters cast a ballot this year. There may be several factors for that, but one was most likely that so many Americans couldn’t stand either of the major party candidates.
  3. Just after the election, House Speaker Paul Ryan, buoyed by the fact that Republican candidates won majorities in the House and Senate and claimed the Presidency, suggested that the Republican Party has a “mandate to govern.” That is not the case (see #1.)
  4. Millions of people feel disenfranchised by the outcome of this election (again, see #1.) They have every right to voice displeasure and concern (re-read the First Amendment, above.) No, they do not have a right to turn their protests into violence and thankfully that has not been the case in most of the protests.

And here is one more very ugly fact: hate crime spiked right after the election. Suddenly, swastikas appeared. In one incident just about an hour from my home a swastika was painted in a park along with the words “Make America White Again.” Our Governor has ordered a full hate crime investigation by the New York State Police and the State Division of Human Rights.  That is a single incident among many nationwide.

Donald Trump is poised to become the next President of the United States. He spent months telling people that they didn’t need to be civil and courteous anymore, that Latinos would be deported, and that Muslims would be rounded up. He degraded women. He instilled fear in African-Americans and the LGBT community. If he said those things without meaning them, then he now needs to tell his supporters to back off – swiftly and unequivocally. If he said those things and meant them, then he needs a really good lesson in the First Amendment (above.)

I will not sit down and shut up. Just because I live way out here in my sheltered suburban community where people aren’t protesting the vote doesn’t mean I can’t lodge my own protest. I will continue to write about wrongs, show people what’s really going on, and hope to rally the righteous against injustice. I will continue to be civil and kind to others. But I will not stand by and do nothing. Once the naysayers are silenced, then we have turned over our government and relinquished our responsibilities to allow the spread of hate and fascism and that is simply un-American. My friends are free to read what I write or to scroll past it in their news feeds and that is their choice.

My voice will not be silenced. My integrity won’t allow it. I will continue to speak truth to power.  Join me.

Pantsuit Rebellion

It has been a rainy post-election day, causing additional clouds to accumulate in my head, which is never a good thing. I woke up after an all too short night’s sleep feeling like this nightmare should have ended, but it didn’t. It’s still here. It will be here for a while.

Our country has never been more divided and it is absolutely an issue of bigotry. After eight years of the first African American President of the United States, white people rose up in this country to “Make America Great Again.” What they meant was “Make America White Again.”

Guess what? America never was white. The natives who lived here first, who our European ancestors so unceremoniously murdered or rounded up and herded onto little tracts of land that we whites proudly called reservations, were not white. The African-Americans that our white European ancestors brought to their new world to do their dirty work were not white. The Mexican-Americans who settled vast parts of the Western United States before it even was the United States were not white.

But here we stand on the cusp of a new presidency as throngs of white Americans revel in the fact that their chosen one has openly condemned blacks and Latinos. He has condemned Muslims and Jews. He has condemned women.

And now we are being asked to heal. His supporters say, “He didn’t really mean it.” They tell us, “It was just campaign rhetoric.” They opine that “He really isn’t like that.” Okay then, tell me what he really is because that is exactly what he has shown us for many months now and it is the embodiment of the ugly American.

So you’re going to tell me now that you’re not a bigot and you still voted for him. You’re going to tell me that you voted for this demagogue because you are tired of government and sick of politicians and you think that being politically correct is wrong. You’re going to tell me that his opponent was not trustworthy, and you’re going to look me in the eye and tell me that you couldn’t stand her supposed lies even though you were completely unwilling to overlook his blatant lies. You so gamely bought into the decades of trash heaped upon her that you were seeking some alternative and you felt he was an unorthodox substitute.

But I am telling you that you chose brash. You chose hate speech. You chose vindictive. You chose bullying. You chose misogyny. You chose xenophobic. You chose civic illiteracy. You chose instability. And you chose racist. Even if you personally are not those things, that is still the person you chose to lead our country, and now you want the rest of us, the majority actually, since she won the popular vote but not the Electoral College vote, to drop all of our concerns and say that we’re happy to help heal this country.

I do want this country to heal and I want the division to stop. But I will never have a clear conscience when people of color, religious diversity, LGBT people, the disabled, environmentalists, scientists, and women are asked to take a back seat to bigots. We still have an obligation in this country to keep it a safe place to raise families and that includes stamping out schoolyard bullies, maintaining clean air and water, providing a safe and plentiful food supply, allowing people to worship in whatever way they choose, and protecting freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.  Stopping the division means that everyone has a place at the table, not relegating some to a different table.

You owe the rest of us an olive branch, a large one. What will this new leader do to prove that he wants our country to heal? From where I stand, civility has been dealt a crushing blow.

I will always respect the office of President of the United States. That does not mean I will always agree with the office-holder. It remains to be seen whether he can actually govern now. He will get a chance to try, and he will not have an obstructionist Congress in his way. My response to their behavior will depend entirely on what they choose to do with their newfound power. They can choose to bulldoze their opposition, or they can use it for the betterment and healing of a broken nation. We all await their decision. Either way, I can tell you for sure that the Democratic Party I have known all these years remains the party of progressives, not populists, and will still work hard to move our country forward, not backward.

I spent this gloomy day mired in depression. But it’s morphing now into righteous indignation. So I and at least 3-million like-minded women are putting the rest of you on notice now: we won’t sit still and we won’t shut up and we won’t look away when this government you have chosen for us denigrates vast numbers of proud American citizens. We also have a whole bunch of men on our side and quantities of young people. Look out. The pantsuits are still coming for you.