Equal Rights

Dear Virginia, The Nation is Counting on Us. Let’s Not Blow It.

Dear Virginia-

It’s almost here: election day. On Tuesday we’ll be picking city officials and all state officers. Most eyes, however, are on a single race: Governor. Democrat Ralph Northam v. Republican Ed Gillespie. The last polls have the race tied. But this election is about more than Virginia.

Ralph Northam is the best candidate to lead the state. He is a soft-spoken pediatric neurologist, Army veteran, and supremely decent human being. He will act fairly and hold the high tide of crazy at bay.

But the results will ripple beyond state borders. They’ll echo across the country and may affect every aspect of policy and politics in the United States.

Here’s why:

  1. This VA governor’s race is the first major election in a “purple” place where a moderate is facing a candidate who has gone full-on Trump.
  2. It will be considered the barometer of the political value of embracing the president’s rhetoric. Will following along with Trump help you or hurt you politically as a Republican?
  3. The group of people who can stop the current national madness are reasonable Republican members of Congress. (We can’t do anything about the lunatics right now).
  4. Those moderate Rs will decide the fate of the tax bill, healthcare, court appointments, and responses to anything that the Mueller investigation uncovers.
  5. When casting votes, they won’t make their decision with brave, moral clarity. They will base it on how it affects their prospect at re-election.
  6. If the political winds suggest that you can embrace Trumpism and win, even in a balanced place like Virginia…then they will be far more likely to embrace it. They will avoid rocking the boat and let the madness play on.
  7. BUT, if the winds suggest otherwise—that the fever is beginning to break and moderate fairness is back in style—then they may find stiffness in their spines to say NO to the crazier developments that are undoubtedly down the pike.

This is a very long way of saying: For the Love of God, if You Live in Virginia, Please Please Please Vote on Tuesday.  

The two sides are not persuading each other right now, they are simply trying to out-hustle each other. It is all about turnout. We cannot let crazy out-maneuver reasonableness.

Tell yourself, tell your spouse, tell your roommate, your co-workers, your parents, and anyone else who is not under the spell. Please tell them that this is not a time to sit out and see what happens. It’s a time to push back.

Photo Credit: Ania Mendrek Flickr via Compfight cc

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Lincoln…The Know-Nothings…Trump

There is an old Trump Tweet for everything these days.  Twitter users share those archived messages with glee each week.

I’m proposing a corollary: There is an old Lincoln quote for everything these days.

Consider this one, written to his best friend Joseph Speed in the early 1850s. This was inked as a private citizen, without any clear political future. That he would be President of the United States less than a decade later was laughable. He was sitting alone in his office, watching the growth of a nativist political party, and worrying for his country…

“Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began by declaring that ‘all men are created equal.’ We now practically read it, ‘all men are created equal, except negroes.’ When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read ‘all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and catholics.’ When it comes to this, I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty–Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, without the base alloy of hypocrisy.”

 

 

Photo Credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/78156590@N04/30286296555/”>dustinbattfilm</a&gt; Flickr via <a href=”http://compfight.com”>Compfight</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

I’m Usually Not the Marching Type, But…

Donald Trump is President of the United States today. Tomorrow I will join fellow citizens in marching on our National Mall in Washington DC. 

You may be joining me in DC. You may be rallying in a different city. You may be rooting along from your living room. OR…you may be saddened and confused that people would do something like this.women10

You could be thinking…

Get over it already! He won. Move on.

I can’t stand people who protest. You’re just lucky there are brave men and women who allow you the privilege.

We all need to come together and support the President. We are all Americans.

I respect that 63 million people voted for Donald Trump. He was certified as our next President by the electoral college. A rally will not change that.  But please don’t misunderstand what is going on. The marches are not an attack on our country; they are a validation of what makes it great.


women20(1)  The right to assemble was enshrined by the Founders–a tool for those who do not have official power. It’s a demonstration of solidarity…
We are still here and will not go away.

(2)  Exercising that right is especially critical now–at a time when a single party controls the Presidency, House of Representatives, and Senate. That same party controls 68% of state legislatures and 62% of Governor’s offices. This is the most power in the hands of a one group since the Civil War.

(3)  But there is a disconnect. Because, the current President lost the popular vote by 2.8 million votes. That is a 5x bigger defeat than when George W. Bush lost it in 2000.

(4) One side’s ability to enact dramatic alterations to society has never been higher. Yet that power is completely out of proportion to the public’s indicated desire for it.

 

The election…this year…is not normal.

I have been thrown on my heels since November 9th–growing further aghast at the conduct and temperament demonstrated by the man holding our most treasured office…

  • Defending a foreign despot over our own American intelligence officials
  • Threats to punish journalists who challenge him
  • Incoherent late night rants about TV shows and celebrities
  • Refusal to eliminate or even reveal personal business conflicts
  • Cabinet nominations that no reasonable person can claim represent the “best and brightest”

Millions disagree with me–you may be one of them. But I hope we can come together on at least one idea: We only sharpen our ideas when we are forced to defend them against those who disagree. 

Tomorrow, your Facebook feed may be filled with tired, one-liners. Please think before following along….

women14

No, if you see one picture of someone doing something stupid that does not represent everyone who is marching. Do KKK Trump supporters represent you?

No, we are not out of touch “liberal elites” from big cities. Some live in cities. Some don’t. Some are rich. Some are poor. Some aren’t even that liberal. We don’t agree on everything. But we do agree on many big things: like fairness, kindness, and competency. 

No, we are not snowflakes who need participation trophies. We’re folks who refuse to stay silent when we think we can make a difference. 

 

I am not joining this march in spite of being an American, but because I am. Democracy is not just the right to vote. It is an ongoing commitment to pay attention to your community, understand how issues align with your values, and put those values to action.

We are still here. We are paying attention. We will not go away.

The Morning After Pill

It happened. We are stunned. Little sleep. Mind wandering. Worry. Fear. Anger. Shock.

I did not know what to do this morning. Eventually I decided to write a short task list for myself. They are reminders for right now as well as the next four years. I want to share that list, in case it is helpful to anyone else…

Right Now:

  1. Take time to mourn, seethe, sigh, and worry. You don’t have to pretend not to feel those emotions. younghillaryfinal
  2. Lean on the friends and family who share in your disgust, dismay, and sadness. They will be with you no matter what the future holds.
  3. Remember that a majority of the country does not despise you or condone the awful rhetoric of the President-Elect. Hillary Clinton received more overall votes.
  4. Take a moment to honor the strength, resilience, and intelligence of Hillary Clinton. Her legacy must not be the nonsense that was spouted about her during this campaign.
  5. Remember that politics is not the purpose of your life. What you decide to do each morning to maximize your happiness is on you.
  6. Make a list of the things that make you smile. Do some of those today, tomorrow, and the day after that.
  7. Meditate on our place in the universe. We are evolved creatures on a tiny speck of dust in the middle of a galaxy of unimaginable size. How astonishing that we are even here to feel these emotions.

 

Over the Next Four Years:

  1. Detox from politics for a time, but do not retreat from public engagement. The time to stand strong for your principles is when things seem darkest. It could be our finest hour.
  2. Challenge every policy that you disagree with, and fight for what is right in the next four years. But don’t wish the new President to fail out of spite.americafinal
  3. If the new President or Congress is proposing something that you honestly agree with, voice support. We can be the example of compromise, even if others cannot.
  4. Cultivate your values in the local political system. Your life may be far more affected by the mayor, city council, and school board. You can make immediate change there.
  5. Try to find shared humanity with those who support the new President. Dogs, flowers, scary movies, baseball, grandchildren. If you want less division in the country, lead by example.
  6. Never forget: Life is not about “Winning.” It is about Thriving in your own way, and helping others do the same.

Becoming the Guy Who Yells At the Small Town Newspaper

We won’t move to our new house in Winchester for another week—but I’ve already written my first grumpy message to the editor of the local flagship newspaper. Lord help me. I read my soon-to-be-hometown paper for the first time and, lo and behold, 4 of the 5 editorial pieces are slamming gay people. Are you kidding me?  If this isn’t a fluke, I predict I’ll be the offline version of “angry article comment writing guy” in no time.  Kyle will have to hide my quill and ink lest I send old-fashioned newspaper rants every day.get-off-my-lawn

Not until opening that editorial page did I realize how insulated I have been since high school (and coming out)–living in reliable, friendly places for social liberals–Champaign, Chicago, DC, Reston.  Winchester, VA is much more like my hometown of Bradley, IL…except with a slightly more conservative bite. I’m not complaining, local politics are much more fun when there is real disagreement. I’m looking forward to it.

I only write this post for two reasons: (1) To have a place to post this, because I’m sure the newspaper won’t touch it; (2) To remind those interested that we are nearing VERY important Supreme Court arguments that will decide the gay rights issue once and for all (April 28th). Fingers crossed.

Anyway, what I sent the honorable Adrian O’Connor, editorial chief of the venerable Winchester Star:

Is Winchester welcoming of all couples? On a recent editorial page (Friday, April 3rd), four of the five pieces directly or indirectly referenced same-sex couples as bullies, fanatical activists, or downright threats to society.

angryOne piece in particular (“For all the re-definition…) sought to warn the community of looming disaster if the United State Supreme Court upholds lower court rulings that would allow my fiance and I to marry. We are a gay couple and are exciting about moving to the area after buying a home in the Winchester Historic District. The editorial noted that our marriage would not be “normal” because our “chosen sexual behavior isn’t natural.” It went on to suggest that our marriage must be stopped for the sake of the children and grandchildren of Winchester. Really? I would assume, considering that the lives of children are apparently threatened if gay couples marry, that the author would much prefer if my fiance and I did not move into the area at all.  

The editorial argues that gay couples should not be given the right to marry because “the differences in motives, purposes, and practices that define homosexual and heterosexual unions are so great that the English language screams for definitive specificity.” By writing that sentence, I can only assume that the author does not actually know any gay couples.

To allay our future neighbors’ fears, we’d like to share the “motives, purposes, and practices that define our homosexual union.” We are getting married as a lifelong commitment…

  • To Provide one another with unerring emotional support during life’s inevitable challenges.
  • To Have a constant companion to share in life’s joys and triumphs.
  • To Build and care for a home, sprucing up our small corner of the world.
  • To Act as a strong unit to give back to our community in volunteer work, tax dollars, and participation in local organizations.
  • To Protect each of us individually from financial setbacks or career challenges.
  • To Blend our collective families, providing a larger net of trusted friends and confidants.  
  • To Challenge each other to grow beyond our own interests and explore new ideas, hobbies, and adventures.
  • To Push one another to pursue our real passions, regardless of our fears or worries
  • To Provide love, support, and care for a child who needs a safe and stable home.
  • To Ensure care, aid, and support to one another as we age, become disabled, and need to adapt in the twilight of life.
  • To Be a final smiling face one as we transition from this life to whatever lies beyond.

Sexual orientation has zero bearing on the motives, purposes, and practices of two individuals spending their lives together. Allowing my fiance and I to share in the benefits and obligations of marriage will not only benefit us personally, it will also make our new Winchester community stronger.

Let’s Do This Already; I’m Getting Exhausted

 Have you seen Abraham Lincoln/Illinois Outline/Marriage Equality pictures on Facebook recently? That’s because the Illinois General Assembly holds its first “veto session” next week: Tuesday, Wednesday, & Thursday (Oct. 22-24).

That means we have yet another chance to finally allow same-sex couples to marry. You’ll likely be hearing a lot about this in the next few days. Here is a quick primer:

1) To pass in its current form, the bill needs 71 votes in the House. That is a high hurdle, because we could not even get 60 votes last May. However, the bill can be amended to change the start date (for next June) at which point it would only need 60 votes. We are VERY close to having those 60 votes.

Rep. Kate Cloonen is about to cast a vote on behalf of Kankakee County against equal rights.

Rep. Kate Cloonen is about to cast a vote on behalf of Kankakee County against equal rights.

2) A few representatives are still undecided. The single most important thing you can do right now is send a personalized email/message/call to your representative. GO HERE to send a message or LOOK AT THIS POST for contact information.

*A special note for those in Kankakee, Bradley, and Bourbonnais. Democrat Kate Cloonen met with the local equal rights organization this Wednesday at Family House Restaurant (my favorite breakfast spot on the planet, so I took this personal). At the meeting she said that she does not believe gay people in Illinois should be able to marry. Please take a moment now to kindly ask her to re-consider. Voting to keep people unequal (in the Land of Lincoln, of all places) should be embarrassing.

FB: https://www.facebook.com/staterepresentativekate.cloonen
Email: staterepcloonen79@att.net

3) If you end up in polite discussion with opponents of equality this week (I hope so), here’s a quick Argument Cheat Sheet

  • Claim A: I do not support this, because I believe it attacks religious liberty. Christians should not be sued because they do not want to participate in these ceremonies.

–Religious liberty is important. That is why the bill does not force any church to perform services against their wishes. Also, the bill makes ZERO changes to discrimination laws in the state. A completely separate law governs non-discrimination rules in Illinois. In other words, passing this bill will not in any way impact the rights or obligations of any religious person or entity.

  • Claim B: I do not support this, because I believe all children deserve a mother and a father. 

–Great. But permitting a loving couple to get married in no way impacts the parentage of children.  Please do not use children as an excuse to perpetuate inequality.

  • Claim C: I do not support this, because gay couples already have civil unions; they just care about the word marriage. 

–Actually, gay couples in Illinois who have a civil union DO NOT receive federal marriage benefits (i.e. Social Security rights, estate tax breaks, +1,000 others). That is because the federal government does not recognize civil unions, but they do recognize marriage.