I’m sure I’ve ranted about this already in the past, but it happened again last week.  I think it must’ve been the impeachment hearings.  A Republican dimwit said something like “The American people wanted Donald Trump to be President…the American people don’t want impeachment…”

No, you dolt, not the American people.  It was SOME American people that wanted Trump to be President.  SOME Americans don’t like the idea of impeachment…other Americans are fervently hoping and wishing for it.

To be fair, this happens on the left too.  I will frequently hear optimistic commentary claiming that the American working class supports progressive policies–and I so, so wish that were true.  But many in the working class are against ideas like single payer healthcare and increased taxation on the wealthy, even though this essentially means they’re going against their own interests.  Saying that the American people support Bernie is just as unrealistic as saying that the American people support Trump.

The point is, the phrase “The American people want x” is useless, because there is no such thing as a united American people at the moment.  No matter which side you’re coming from, about half the country will oppose you.  And not just oppose you in a reasonable, thoughtful kind of way–but more like oppose you in a hair-on-fire, I-want-you-to-die kind of way.  Right now, slightly more than half the country hates Trump. (I’m part of that half, and I do think there are good reasons to dislike him.) If a Dem gets elected President (which I really, really hope happens, and have already started working for), slightly less than half the country will be actively rooting against them, and hoping for them to fail.  I don’t know what kind of saint could perform the miracle of making that division go away.  Jesus would get crucified all over again for being a socialist, so it wouldn’t be Him.

Don’t get me wrong, I do understand why that phrasing gets used so much.  Politicians want to create the impression that all or the vast majority of Americans support whatever idea they’re trying to promote.  And since when do politicians care if what they’re saying is actually true?  There are also non-politician citizens who badly want to believe that it’s only a small crazy fringe which disagrees with them…after all, their views just make so much sense, right?  But it’s extra disingenuous to be saying this at such an extremely polarized time in our history.

I know it doesn’t sound nearly as impressive to say “Well, about half the people are behind me on this…and large sections of the country don’t like what I’m doing.”  And it could be deadly to one’s political career.  So, we will have to continue to put up with political leaders speaking for “the American people” in their entirety, even though all of us who are in touch with reality know this to be a lie.  We are not one American people, and will not be for a long time.

At least, not until the next time somebody attacks us.  Because nothing binds a people together and puts an end to internal strife like finding a common enemy.  So, on that fine day when we find someone we can hate more than we hate each other, we will be able to once again say “The American people are completely in favor of destroying…”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So I have spent the past few weeks of my life reading a truly atrocious right-wing prepper novel.  I’m a masochist, I know.  The story takes place in the Northwest and is every armed MAGA hatter’s fantasy.  Portland, which is naturally a socialist hellhole, collapses in riot and flames, overcome by raging violent hordes of Antifa types.  The intrepid conservative heroine of the tale, who’s been hoarding guns and vacuum-sealed bags of food, has been ready for this moment and escapes into the mountains of Colorado, which are blessedly free of Democratic voters and immigrants.

Reading this alt-right daydream about the collapse of the world as we know it reminded me of a suspicion I’ve had for a long time now–that if an apocalypse comes, I don’t think I want to survive it.

I can picture it now–the day all the preppers have been waiting for.  Smoke is rising from the ruined cities, no doubt done in by the disastrous policies of providing union jobs and offering free school lunches to kids.  As the murderous socialist hipsters finish each other off in the blue urban areas, the few who are wise enough to understand what’s going on flee to the red countryside, where they go back to the old ways, hunting and sewing their own clothes and working the land and…barf.

I know, I know, you’re supposed to appreciate being alive no matter what.  But seriously?  I grew up on a farm and never liked farming.  I don’t even like gardening in my suburban yard.  I’ve never felt any kind of mystical connection while digging around in the dirt, except for the mystical thought that I wanted to go back inside and read the news.  And don’t even get me started on my failed attempts at sewing back in home economics class.

And I would miss all the things I’m not supposed to miss about the modern world.  Starbucks.  Playing around on my phone.  Riding on a crowded bus.  The gentrified downtown of my city.  Truth is, I actually love working my comfy cubicle job and eating artificially colored snacks from the vending machine.

Right, if only I could learn to let go of all that stuff, I would find that there is a magical, natural lifestyle waiting for me of running barefoot in the grass, baking my own bread made from my own grain, which I would be able to eat in the log cabin I built myself.  I refuse to learn that lesson.  Why?  Because I’m happy right now, in this messy, cluttered, imperfect world.  I get the feeling that a lot of the preppers are secretly hoping for a catastrophe, because there is something missing in their lives (maybe excitement?).  I also hope that they do find what they’re searching for…but without the rest of us having to go down in flames in the process.

So in short, if the zombie apocalypse ever does come, feel free to throw me off the back of the truck as bait.  No, really.  I’m okay with not continuing my existence at that point.

Knowing my luck, though, I will end up very much alive and stuck in some happy clappy farming commune.  I’ll be easy to spot–I’ll be the one sneaking away from the fields with a beer, desperately trying to find a wi-fi signal.

Note:  For any of my readers willing to torture themselves, the prepper novel is titled A Great State and written by Shelby Gallagher.  It’s part of a trilogy, but I don’t think I’ll be able to stomach the other two parts.

Nothing will get me back to blogging quite like sheer frustration. And this week in local Oregon politics has been, well, infuriating.

So last week, the Oregon House of Representatives passed HB2020–a carbon cap and trade bill. It’s not a perfect bill. If you ask me, we’re too late as it is and nothing we do now will reverse the coming climate catastrophe. But I will be happy if we can slow it down or decrease it, and this bill is a step in the right direction. The ultimate goal is to slash emissions 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.

I will add that this is personal for me. I have gone to the Capitol to lobby for this bill, I have called and e-mailed my legislators about it, I have donated to the organizations fighting the good fight. When the bill passed the House, my friends and I celebrated. “Now all it needs to do is pass the Senate!” I enthused to my husband.

“Oh, is that ALL,” he chuckled. Smart man.

Piece of cake, right? Oregon has a Democratic supermajority in both the House and the Senate at the moment.

And then…the Republicans did what you do when you’re about to lose a vote and you don’t like it.

They ran away.

Yep. Conservatives love to fling the word “snowflake” around, but these Republicans acted like complete snowflakes. They couldn’t handle being in the minority, so they threw a temper tantrum, took their toys and went home. Or in this case, just vanished. Word is, they escaped across state lines to Idaho. Governor Kate Brown has sent out the Oregon State Police to look for them and bring them back to vote, so they apparently felt they would be safer out of state.

By going missing, the GOP have denied the Senate the quorum needed to actually vote on the bill. The Oregon Constitution stipulates that at least 67% of the Senate needs to be present for a vote to take place.

Mind you, this isn’t the first time this has happened. Earlier this session, the GOP Senators did the exact same thing when there was an education funding bill they objected to. They returned after four days and the education bill passed, but in return they negotiated with the Dems to kill a couple of other bills they didn’t like–a vaccine exemption bill and a gun control bill (grrrrr). Part of the deal was a promise from the Republicans that they wouldn’t walk out again. That explains why the Governor isn’t messing around this time, and has indicated she is willing to have the escapees arrested.

So where do we go from here? It’s hard to tell. The Senate was going to continue in special session over the weekend, but that was called off because local right-wing groups were planning a Saturday rally which was to include armed militia members, and legislators were scared for their safety. If you think they’re being paranoid, consider that one of the Republican Senators hinted that if the state police were to come after him, they better be “bachelors” and “heavily armed.” The mood both in our state and our country is growing more and more unpleasant….

Over the past few years, my family and I have been watching the climate in Oregon change. Temperatures in the summer are much hotter than they were when we first moved here. Rain has decreased. Winters are colder and drier. We’ve had a couple of years in a row now during which thick smoke from wildfires has plagued us and made it difficult to breathe.

So if this bill, this last-ditch effort to help, goes down in flames, I’m left with some very uncharitable thoughts. The people in rural districts who oppose this bill so vehemently…if their farms and businesses are affected by drought or other climate disasters in the future, I hope they don’t come crying to me about it. I certainly hope they don’t ask for financial help from us Portlanders. After all, we’re just stupid city folk who bought into the climate change conspiracy, right?

Sigh. I realize that is unkind and I should be looking for my better angels, but I am having a hard time finding them right now. As much as I have been MIA from this blog, I will try to update either in posts or comments about how this whole mess ultimately works out.

Well, the 2020 election season is starting to fire up, and here comes the predictable chorus saying the same thing we always hear.  When it comes to people who actually want to transform the system we live in–people who support things like a single payer health care system, a higher minimum wage, affordable college…

You want free stuff!

Lazy moochers.  You want a handout, don’t you?  You want to be given something for nothing.

Let me just stop this tired old song before it even gets started.  I’m not a moocher.  I’m certainly not lazy.  I drag myself out of bed and work my ass off every single day.  I don’t want a handout–I just want what I’m rightfully owed for my hard work.  A decent wage.  The ability to see the doctor if I’m sick.  A roof over my head.  Working people should be able to have access to these basics.

Conservatives twist this into the idea of class envy.  If you want these things, it must be because you’re envious of what other people have and want to take that away.  I don’t envy the rich their lifestyle.  I certainly don’t envy Donald his garish, gold-covered absurdity of an existence.  I’m not asking for what belongs to anybody else–I’m asking for what is already mine.  The fruit of my hard labor.

Most Americans I know are like that.  I’ve known a couple of people over the course of my life who I could genuinely describe as moochers, but they were a small minority.  The majority of people I know in this country work themselves to the point of burnout and exhaustion, and they get screwed over in return.  It amazes me that so many of these working class Americans still support Trump.  The man has done his best to weasel away even more from them–everything from overtime pay to the ability to file a workers compensation claim for an on-the-job injury, and he certainly hasn’t helped with the tax situation.  Yet they continue to love the guy who robs them of what little they have.

So no, I’m not interested in “free stuff.”  But hey, getting treated with some dignity by the country I’m investing my life and work into?  Now that actually sounds like a good deal….

I have sadly, sadly neglected this blog.  However, I have continued writing and editing for my local Democratic party chapter.  I posted this over on their blog, and thought I would share here, as well.

As I look at pictures of women and children getting tear gassed at our border, my mind can’t help but drift back to a time when I was a frightened little kid.

Back in the 1980s, my parents made a brave decision which a lot of Americans on both sides of the political aisle would have approved of. They stood up to the Communist government of our native Poland. They became active members of Solidarity, the trade union movement which fought against totalitarian oppression and for free speech, fair elections, better working conditions. Because of this, my parents were blacklisted by the government and unable to find employment anywhere. The threat of arrest was always looming over them. There were contingency plans for who would take care of me if they were taken away.

My father decided that, for the good of the family, we would leave Poland.

My parents managed to obtain visas for a six-week vacation to Holland–our suspicion has always been that the government was happy to get rid of us because we were troublemakers. Nobody who saw us leave would have been fooled by the vacation bit. Our little Volkswagen bug was filled to the brim with sheets and pillows, clothing and books, so much so that it almost broke down at the border between East and West Berlin. After many adventures, we made it to Groningen, a town in the north of Holland which would become our home for the next few years, and there my parents made their next brave decision.

We overstayed our visa.

Yep, that’s right–we broke immigration law. It was our only chance at a new life, since there was no way the Communist government in Poland would have officially allowed us to move elsewhere. As weeks and then months went on, the realization hit me that this really wasn’t a vacation and I really wasn’t going back home. I suffered from intense homesickness, but in time, I got used to Dutch culture and I grew to like living in Holland.

And I’m so grateful that the Dutch government didn’t just immediately kick us out.
I’m even more grateful that they didn’t arrest us, or separate me from my parents, or attack us with tear gas. The Dutch understood that we were asylum seekers and they put us through the normal asylum appeal process. In time, the Berlin Wall would fall, and with it Communism–much sooner than we thought it would–and at that point, our asylum claim was denied due to the changed political situation. But we were given a fair shot.

And while, yes, we had some scary times in Poland, what we went through is nothing compared to what some of the refugees trying to get into our country have experienced. The families from Central America who have seen family members get kidnapped and killed. The Syrian kids whose homes were bombed into rubble. And we can’t extend a helping hand to them? Because these people are “illegal”? Since America is supposed to be such a devout nation, I will speak in a language it might understand–like the Pharisees in the New Testament, you are obsessed with following the letter of the law, not the effect it might have on the life and spirit of your fellow human beings. Jesus would not be proud.

When I have brought up my family immigration history to Trump supporters who are all about keeping the migrants out, I get only silence in return. People literally don’t want to discuss it. I can guess why this is–there are only a few options for how one can respond, none of them very pleasant. One would be to admit that you’re wrong about the refugees and maybe we should allow some of them in–not something a MAGA fan would be willing to do. Another would be to tell me that yes, Holland should have deported us back to Communism–again, not a point that a conservative would enjoy making.

And then there’s the worst possibility of them all–that if the Trump supporter were being honest with me, they would say “Well, we would be okay with you coming in as a refugee, because your skin is white. You’re European, so we can empathize with your fear and pain. But these migrants–they’re brown-skinned, they’re Latino, they’re Muslim. It’s just not the same thing.”

I suspect that this is what’s behind the silence, and that is a painful conclusion to reach.
To those who think that way, I would say this: You’re not only hurting the migrants, you’re hurting our country, too.

Immigrants make this country stronger and better. We work hard, we’re innovative, and America is enriched by including many different cultures, religions, traditions.

My family has been incredibly lucky. I can’t simply turn my back and close the door on other desperate families, other frightened kids. Let’s give them a chance at a new life, too.

Time for a little update about my midterms activities here in the Portland region.  I have been insanely busy canvassing and phone banking, as well as editing and writing articles for my local Democratic Party.  In particular, I have been spending a lot of my time volunteering for the re-election campaign of Kate Brown, our kickass female Democratic governor.

This race is the perfect example of why the midterms are so important.  It’s very easy to get complacent in a place like Oregon.  This is a blue state–the Democrat will win, right?  But while we were being complacent, this has suddenly turned into a very tight race, with polls showing Governor Brown and her opponent to be very close.  Not least thanks to Republican Knute Buehler cleverly portraying himself as a moderate, since he knows that’s the only way he can possibly win the Portland metro area.  Knute says he’s pro-choice in his ads!  He’s liberal on social issues!  He’s got an independent streak!  He criticized President Trump that one time!

While Knute does his “I’m really not a conservative!” song and dance, the Democrats are stuck with the problem of having a competent and hard-working incumbent who doesn’t get any exciting PR for being that way.  I frequently hear voters say “If only Kate had done something impressive!”  After I’ve done some deep breathing and lowered my blood pressure, I direct them to this list of accomplishments.

Some of my favorite highlights include:

She approved a minimum wage hike for the state.

She mandated 40 hour paid sick leave for all Oregon employees.

She set up a state-run retirement fund for any workers who are not provided a retirement plan at work.

She signed a bill which ensured that all Oregon kids receive health care.

She increased funding for the Oregon Promise Act, which helps low-income students attend community college.

She signed legislation to enforce universal background checks on gun purchases.

And she helped pass the motor voter bill, which makes any Oregon resident with a state ID automatically registered to vote.

My climate activist friends are rooting for a carbon pricing bill which is currently working its way through the state legislature.  If Governor Brown is re-elected, she is likely to sign this bill.  If Knute Buehler is elected, bye-bye carbon pricing.  Likewise, Knute claims to be pro-choice now, but before he started his centrist run for the governor, he voted against a bill expanding abortion rights.  A Governor Buehler would be much more likely to restrict reproductive rights for women.

Has Kate Brown’s leadership been ideal? Has she done everything I would like her to do? Nope, but I don’t expect that, because I inhabit reality and not a fantasy world. But…have the things she has done had a real effect on people’s lives? Absolutely yes. I would say she’s made a difference to the kids who were able to get health care, the women whose ex-boyfriend stalker wasn’t able to buy a gun, or the people who will get paid a higher minimum wage.

The problem is that all these things take hard, unglamorous, daily work.  And that kind of work is much less likely to get attention than, say, somebody sitting on his ass and sending out offensive Tweets, or heavily armed dipshits coming to our fair city and hoping to cause trouble.  And chances are even higher that a hard-working and qualified politician will get overlooked or criticized if that politician happens to be a woman (I can think of someone that happened to not that long ago, ahem).

Hopefully voters will take Kate Brown’s achievements into consideration in November. (I know, I’m asking American voters to actually think…that can seem like a stretch sometimes.)  Or, maybe Portland progressives will do what they do best…let the perfect be the enemy of the good, and thus snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.  Aaaand months from now all those political purists will be complaining about something the Republican governor did which they don’t like.  Hey, don’t come crying to me…I was out here trying to prevent that from happening!

Speaking of which…the weekend is almost upon us, which means time to lace up my canvassing shoes and get out there.  Hope all of you are getting ready to fill out that ballot.  Only two and a half weeks left until the election!

First of all, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. — Todd Akin

The facts show that people who are raped — who are truly raped — the juices don’t flow, the body functions don’t work and they don’t get pregnant. Medical authorities agree that this is a rarity, if ever. — Rep. Henry Aldridge

Yeah. Remember these geniuses? Republican politicians trying to claim that women cannot get pregnant from rape, including Rep. Stephen Freind who theorized that when a woman is being raped, her body “secretes a certain secretion” which kills sperm.

I recall hearing about these statements and being amazed by them. I attributed them to a certain kind of ideological dishonesty. These politicians were trying to appeal to a voter base which would like to outlaw abortion–but even those who are pro-life will feel some sympathy towards victims of rape and incest, and it’s harder in those situations to trot out the standard accusation of “Well, she chose to have sex, so…” What better way to dismiss that twinge of compassion than by suggesting that a woman is not physically able to get pregnant from rape?

It still slays me how naive I am sometimes. No matter how cynical I claim to be, I don’t look to use and attack other humans, and so it doesn’t penetrate my thick skull that others do, and how easily they do it. I assumed that these quotes had to do with how these conservative men felt about abortion–but what if they also had to do with how they felt about rape? What if at least some of these men want to believe that they can sexually assault women with no consequence?

After all, they still think of women as objects to be used, whether it’s as sex toys or obedient wives. What could be better than to think that you could rape a woman without having to worry about unwanted pregnancy or the sin of abortion? Really, it might be enough just to make other people believe this. If she got pregnant, she secretly must have wanted it…the slut.

This puts a lot of insane Republican comments about rape into perspective. Like when Rick Santorum said women who did get pregnant from rape should “make the best of a bad situation.” Or when candidate for Texas governor, Clayton Williams, suggested that rape victims try to “relax and enjoy it.” Right! Relax and enjoy it when we assault you…after all, this is your job. Your role in life. Seriously, you should be thrilled this is happening to you.

Every time I peel back another layer of how these “virtuous” and “moral” people think about the world, it causes a wave of nausea to come over me. I will never completely understand where they’re coming from, and I probably don’t want to.

What I do understand: ­­­­Women absolutely have to vote this November. If we don’t want to live in a world in which rape is acceptable and tolerated, we need to speak up. Let’s, in Todd Akin’s words, shut that whole thing down.