Support your local democracy workers!  This is an essential mission in times like these.

I spent some time this week listening to congressional hearings about the infamous Cyber Ninjas election audit in Arizona.  There was a lot of crazy involved in the audit situation…but one of the most painful things, for me, was hearing the Arizona election officials talking about the death threats and intimidation they’ve received from their fellow Americans.  Jack Sellers, chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, talked about Sheriff’s department vehicles being parked in front of his house all night due to specific threats directed at him.  Keep in mind that this man is a Republican, but he is being punished anyway for not going along with Trump’s Big Lie.

This same pattern is playing out in many places across the country.  In red states, Republican legislators and election officers who dare to uphold the results of the 2020 presidential race are being harassed and pressured to leave office.  And school board members are resigning because of the vicious attacks they are receiving over mask mandates.  We hear a lot about the squabbling in Congress, but there is a different battle taking place all over the nation. The Trumpist right wing has turned its assault on democracy local.

This strategy works to their advantage on multiple levels.  Number one, it pushes people unwilling to kowtow to Trump out of these jobs, and replaces them with loyal followers who will toe the line.  In the future, the actual vote counts in an election might not matter, if state legislatures and officers are happy to overturn the results.  Number two, it creates a chilling effect which keeps responsible community members from running for these positions.  Who wants to deal with this much stress and fear for doing hard work which is either low-paid or voluntary?

As a volunteer for our county Democratic party, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some of our local school board members.  These are regular, everyday Moms, former teachers, immigrants who live and work in our community.  They are not people with a Secret Service detail.  They cannot and should not have to deal with constant threats to their safety.  Fortunately, in the area where I live–as far as I can tell–the situation is not that dire, but many others are not so lucky.

So what can we do?  As always, just throwing up our hands and getting angry about terrible Youtube videos is not the answer.  I’m forever on my soapbox about how we need to be involved in local politics, but this is especially true now.

If you have the courage, time and resources, running for or volunteering for one of these positions is a beautiful thing.  The right is currently working on getting its very special Trump-approved candidates to fill these slots.  We need good, sane people to push back on this.

That is not realistic for everyone, however.  For those of us who cannot run, we need to find ways to show support for our local helpers of democracy.  One way is to show up to meetings.  Often, the majority of the community actually supports things like mask mandates, but the minority which opposes them is loud and aggressive about it–and they are the ones who show up and speak out (or scream out, more accurately).

Another way is to show support on social media.  This may seem like a small thing, but again, if you visit the social media accounts of your school district or city council or state legislators, you will often find that the comments are dominated by a flood of trolling and negativity–even for someone who just a few days ago may have won the community’s vote!  If they are doing something you agree with, leave a thank you note of support.  If we let the trolls take over, it gives the false impression that the community is opposed to popular policies.

And of course, around election time, support the campaigns of those who are trying to do the right thing.  Donate if you can, volunteer if you are able to.

It’s not glamorous and it’s not going to get national media coverage, but it’s actions like this, putting in the work day after day, election after election, that will save our democracy.

To the democracy workers–thank you for what you do.  We’ve got your back.

In a different world, a long time ago, a little girl and her family were experiencing a country in crisis.

In this country, there were long lines in front of grocery stores, with people waiting for hours, often only to be told that the food in the store had run out.  The government issued ration cards for how much food each person could receive, and there was real anxiety about where our next meal was coming from.  There were tanks on our streets, and Soviet tanks waiting on our border, just in case they were needed to come in and help crush anti-government resistance.

And there were many, many people out on the streets protesting the government, including members of my family.  The protesters were met by the military and the police.  They were tear gassed and clubbed.  Some of them were shot.

This was life in the Communist Poland of my childhood.  But you would never know any of this was happening if you watched official state television.

We had only two channels on our black-and-white TV, but if you turned one of them on, you would see cheerful citizens, who would never even think of complaining.  You would see interviews with farmers who were excited to work for the socialist state.  Speeches from government officials about our glorious future, during which everyone in the audience clapped enthusiastically, because they knew they had to.  And of course, proud military parades, accompanied by much flag-waving.

And the protesters?  Their existence was rarely acknowledged, but when it was, they were described in no uncertain terms.  They were anarchists.  They were violent troublemakers.  They were drug addicts and criminals.

I made the mistake last week of watching parts of the Republican convention.  What I saw gave me a sinking feeling of the worst kind of déjà vu.

Once again, my family and I are living in a country in crisis.  Thousands are dead of a badly mismanaged pandemic.  Our economy is on the verge of collapse, with mass job losses and business closures and evictions looming on the horizon, or already here.  We see example after example of violent police brutality against Black Americans, and people are out on the streets protesting systemic racism.  And armed militias are now showing up at those protests, threatening and, at least in one case, shooting and killing protesters, with seeming support or indifference from the police.

But you would never know any of this was happening if you watched the RNC.  Here, the pandemic was mentioned in past tense, and since it’s practically over, the economy is about to bounce back!  The convention was full of happy nurses who were not experiencing PPE shortages, and happy people of color who don’t get discriminated against.  We got the requisite moving story of the prisoner who had repented and reformed, and the cop who became his lifelong friend.  And then there was the parade of shiny-faced Trump family members, telling us about how caring and compassionate this President is, how much he respects women and loves to put them in positions of power.  All this accompanied by many uniforms and much flag-waving.

According to the RNC, the biggest danger in our country right now is the “cancel culture” ushered in by liberals, which might cause a few people to unfollow you on Twitter.

To my American friends, please take this as a warning from someone who would know:  YES.  This is a tipping point.  Every time you hear another speech about how Trump is the “only one” who can protect America, you should be very afraid.  That is pure dictatorship talk.

If Trump wins re-election, that really could damage what remains of our democratic system beyond repair–or damage it so severely that it will take generations to fix it.  There are also fundamental problems with American society that have existed for a long time, like systemic racism and big money in elections, but we will not be able to work on any of them if our country slides into full-on totalitarianism.

My family was able to survive a totalitarian state once, and we don’t want to have to do it again.  We need to work to get Trump out of office like we have never worked before.  I’m ready to do my part.  I don’t want any more of this kind of déjà vu.

Lucky Subjects of America!

I am happy to report our mission has been accomplished.  America has been Made Great Again.  We used to be Number One, now we are Number One Plus Plus!  We can count ourselves fortunate to be here for this glorious moment in our country’s history.

Our medical technology is the best and most innovative in the world.  One might worry that this would mean too many of us would live for too long, but luckily it’s also the most expensive medical technology in the world, and our health care system ensures that survival of the fittest (or, in this case, survival of the wealthiest) still applies.  Those in the working class will not burden the system after their productive and useful years are over.  Successful individuals, on the other hand, can be kept functioning in a vegetable state long past their expiration date.

The women of our nation are grateful to have been returned to their sacred feminine role.  No obstacle stands in the way of their freedom to birth countless babies.  Their labor may be unpaid, but it is the most important and holy work of all:  providing a supply of workers for our fast food restaurants, and soldiers for our neverending wars.

Speaking of which, our battles around the world are bringing us unprecedented victories–we are paying more money for more foreign military bases than before, and are able to grant the gift of democracy to the vanquished in those lands.  Haters might call us the Evil Empire, but we are ready and willing to fight anyone who questions our commitment to peace.  And now that our southern border wall has been extended to cover all four sides of the country, we can guarantee absolute safety to our fellow Americans, and keep them protected from nefarious eastern, western and northern influences.

Another nefarious influence which we have nearly completely succeeded in rooting out is that of the heathen Commie god named “Jesus.”  Our churchgoers pray to the Prosperity God and plead daily for His blessings.

Our enemies claim that we have turned America into a Third World nation.  We will not argue with this ludicrous assertion, except to say that even if it were true, we would be the best Third World nation ever.  Nobody can Third World the way we Third World.  Our tent cities are bigger than your tent cities, loser.

So don’t be afraid to embrace the MAGA, Americans!  Today, our nation stands unified–not least because anyone who dares to disagree has a good chance of getting “vanished”. Let us vow to ourselves that if we sacrifice more money, health and sanity to Our Dear Orange Leader next year, we can make America even greater!

I hear a lot about the real America. I’m told it’s a very particular kind of place. It’s the heartland with its God-fearing and armed Christians which is the real America. Not the perverted coasts. Not elitist New York or liberal Hollywood.

Problem is, I love the fake America. I’m an immigrant–I know, we’re not quite as fashionable as we used to be–and I definitely didn’t come here for the real America. If I wanted to be surrounded by farms and church-goers, I could’ve stayed in rural Eastern Europe. Those of us around the world who dream of America dream of a glamorous and exciting place. I dreamed of the land of skyscrapers and city skylines, of jazz and rap. I didn’t think of Americans as people who followed conservative tradition, I thought of them as people who outraged their elders by doing inappropriate dances, and doing them with inappropriate dance partners. My parents imitated Americans with jeans and hippie hair and rock’n’roll. When we lived behind the Iron Curtain and we fantasized about the States, we didn’t fantasize about being a televangelist (except maybe for their wealth).

Our patriotic pundits like to remind us that America is exceptional. I agree that it is. But if it looked like they wish it did, it wouldn’t be exceptional at all. There are already plenty of narrow-minded and theocratic places on this planet–there’s no need for more. There’s not nearly enough of the mixed-up and the crazy and the sinful. Those are the parts of America I love the most. And I hope that God or Goddess will continue to bless them for many years to come.

Conservatives here in America and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt are two very different groups.  But there is a lesson to be learned from the revolution which happened in Egypt this week.

Mohammed Morsi’s government failed because it wasn’t inclusive enough.  When running for office, Morsi promised to include women and Christians in his administration, to be respectful of minority rights.  The Muslim Brotherhood claimed that they were realistic and did not have any delusions about being able to set up a fundamentalist religious state in Egypt.  With these promises, they convinced even some moderate Egyptians to vote for them.

Once they got into office, it was a different story, and they wasted no time trying to build a society based on sharia law.  But a new generation of Egyptians doesn’t want a traditional Islamic state forced on them, and we saw the results of that yesterday.

Republicans in this country face a similar dilemma.  They have to at least pretend to be inclusive and accepting of women, immigrants, minorities and non-Christians.  They know that if they don’t, they may never win a national election again.  But when they’re in office, they seemingly can’t help themselves.  They instantly focus on limiting women’s rights, making voting difficult for their fellow Americans–and trying to build a society based on religious law.

The new world we live in is a small and shrinking one.  We are part of a global economy and a global communication system.  We interact with people of different cultures and faiths on a regular basis.

Any political party or group which only appeals to one race, one religion, one tradition is already turning itself into a dinosaur, and if it’s not careful, it may go extinct.  Republicans–take note.

“I think they should tread lightly…because North Idaho will become North Ireland if they take it too far” — attendant of Coeur D’Alene, Idaho Second Amendment rally, speaking about imagined government gun grabs.

Let’s start with the fact that the Second Amendment isn’t going anywhere.  Sometimes I wish it was, but it isn’t.  It’s in the Constitution, and it’s there for a reason–for the population to defend itself from a tyrannical government.  There are varying interpretations of this–were these meant to be armed individuals?  Militias?–but the essence of it remains.

It’s times like these, though, that make me wonder if the Founders had thought of the possible unintended consequences of this idea.  The day’s news is filled with stories of misguided murderous individuals who were not seeking to revolt against anything, except perhaps their own depressing lives.  And then there is the other problem–the people who are talking about armed revolt these days aren’t thinking of a monarch or a totalitarian dictator.  Their fantasies are of overturning a government and a President which were democratically elected, but which they happen not to like.  This would be the exact opposite of the populace rebelling against an oppressive elite–it would be a group of extremists depriving the majority of the vote they had lawfully cast. 

What can we do to stop this from happening?  Well, really, nothing.  Again, our citizens arming themselves is legal and constitutional.  Within the next few years, we may find out if that constitutional right was actually a good idea.

This one goes out to my conservative peeps, and there are a lot of you out there.  You’re my friends and neighbors and co-workers, and while our worldviews are very different, the conservatives I know are decent and responsible, and yeah, even compassionate.

Here’s what I want to say to you:  there’s no reason to freak out this much about the election results.  Democracy isn’t ending.  The world isn’t ending.  Liberal locusts aren’t raining from the sky.  I’m seeing a lot of talk of secession online, which I assume is just bluster meant to cover up hurt egos.  Where exactly are you seceding to?  You and I are stuck with each other in this country, whether we like it or not.

Also?  I know exactly how you’re feeling right now.  I remember hearing the election results back in 2004.  I remember being just as shocked and distraught.  “How could this guy have gotten re-elected?”  But we liberals survived eight years of Bush.  And you’ll survive eight years of Obama.  America has survived far more serious times, including a real civil war.  It has survived far more sweeping and bigger governmental programs being instituted than any Obama has proposed.  And after all the turmoil and change, it’s still America.  And it’s still a democracy.  A democracy which, by the way, worked exactly as intended on Tuesday.

I realize that you won’t believe me no matter how much I say it, but Obama isn’t about to usher in a new Communist era in the United States.  He’s not even progressive enough for most of us progressives.  And if by Communism you mean that weak sauce Republican health care plan which got passed into law instead of single payer, then that is one bizarre idea of Communism.  No, I feel pretty comfortable predicting that America will remain a firmly capitalist society.

And as always, the political process will remain a cycle.  At some point, another Republican President will get elected, and I will feel as if everything is coming to an end.  But that won’t be true, either.  Hang in there and trust me, your day will come again.  Unless you decide to secede before then–and that would just be silly.