This series aims to a) help us stay informed on the events unfolding in America and b) urge readers to add their voice to the chorus calling out for justice. We must be aware. We must be vocal. We must be active. We must be loving. This is how we will triumph and how we will transform our lives, our nation, and our world. But I’ve been struggling…especially since the House GOP voted for the AHCA. My struggle crystallized as Kalie and I were driving home from the movies Friday night, listening to Billy Joel. In “Great Wall Of China” (a song he wrote after he found out his longtime manager had embezzled over 90 million dollars from him) he sings, “You only beat me if you get me to hate.” It’s getting harder and harder to not feel hate towards these power-hungry, wealth-worshipping, rich, white, men who care for nothing outside of oppression, profit, and more power. But Billy Joel is right (and, you know, Jesus who says the same thing)! If I hate, I’ve lost. The struggle must go on but hate and anger devour those who hold them. We must RESIST but always in and through LOVE.
As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. so correctly said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” So this week I turn to the spiritual. U2’s “When I Look At The World,” is a song written to Jesus. In the lyrics Bono sings how he can’t understand how Jesus sees what he sees when he looks at the world. I’m wondering the same thing. How do I get there? All I know for sure is a) it’s absolutely possible and b) I can’t ever stop trying. The Orange Tyrant and his cabal of cronies can try and strip away every sense of progress, equality, and integrity from the country around us but they can’t control our hearts, minds, and souls. So I’m with Bono – I have to work to find the eyes Jesus uses when he looks at the world. I need, we need to love our enemies, pray for those who persecute us, and do good to those who hate us.
Here’s what’s coming up that we need to talk to our representatives about or call/email/mail other people in government/power. Note, whenever possible, have the bill number of the issue you’re calling about ready to share with the staffer who answers the phone.
1) H.R. 676: The Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act – this is it people. Here’s where the health care battle really kicks up. This is another movement to get us a single-payer health care system in the United States, the best way to ensure all Americans have access to the health care they need without having to purchase health care. It will be paid for with the existing sources of government revenue for health care and increasing personal income taxes on those making over $210,000 a year (or those in the top 5% of U.S. incomes).
Really though, the question is, how can we afford not to do this? Many other developed nations have some form of single-payer health care. I know there are rumors of long wait lists to see doctors, a reduction in pay for physicians (which people say means they will offer less quality care if they make less), and a massive tax hike for the middle class. But the reason we hear so much about that is because of fear. If we are too scared to demand this basic human right, then the rich pay less in taxes and insurance companies continue to profit at the very real expense of the American people, something the monster the mainline Republican Party has turned into since abandoning the conservatism that guided it for so many years, greatly desires.
If you’d like more information, here’s an article by Physicians For A National Health Program explaining just what a single-payer system is. And here is a handy myth/fact sheet, also written by the doctors from PNHP, that untangles some of the fallacious language used to scare people away from a system like this.
2) Given everything that happened last week with the firing of James Comey, it’s more important than ever that we call our senators and representatives and demand the most thorough investigation possible into the depth of Russian collusions with Trump, his campaign, and his administration. Seventeen different intelligence agencies have agreed that Russia interfered with the 2016 election! We can’t pretend this isn’t real. Some are calling for an independent special prosecutor. There’s also a bill before the House (H.R. 356: Protecting Our Democracy Act) that would create a twelve member, independent, bi-partisan commission within ninety days to investigate the “electoral meddling of foreign governments.” Here’s a helpful article from The Washington Post outlining all the investigative options open to Congress.
If nothing else, you need to call your representatives and ask them how they plan to support this investigation and push it forward. If they aren’t planning on doing that, we need to remind them how precious our democracy and our freedom is. These aren’t things we can toss aside for partisan favor.
Speaking Truth To Power
This section highlights those who are daring to speak out against the corruption in our government. Sadly, given the way our media operates, we must turn to comedians to do the job journalists should do. Thankfully, we have these insightful, powerful voices – many trained by Jon Stewart over the years – to speak the truth.
1) Stephen Colbert outlines the very real dangers behind Trump’s firing of Comey, discusses the vital need for an independent special prosecutor on Russian collusion…and covers Sean Spicer hiding in the bushes.
2) Trevor Noah outlines how ridiculous last Wednesday’s Russian love fest in the White House was and how Trump’s dangerous ties to Russia become more obvious every day.
3) Trevor Noah uses the real-life situation of South African dictatorships to explain the dangers inherent in the Trump administration.
These aren’t matters our reps will vote on directly but they are still important news we should be aware of:
1) Obviously, the big news this last week was our wanna-be tyrant president firing FBI Director James Comey because Comey was investigating the possible ties existing between Trump, his campaign, and his administration to Russia. The reason he gave for firing Comey (laughably) was he didn’t treat Hillary fairly with regard to her emails. Ha. Yes, I think Comey actually helped toss the election to Trump with his needless re-opening of the investigation of Hillary’s emails the week before the election. BUT that doesn’t change the danger in his firing. The last time a president fired someone investigating him it was Nixon in regard to Watergate. Trump is removing all those who stand against him, and “the least tyrant-proof part of the government, is the U.S. Department of Justice and the larger law enforcement and regulatory apparatus of the United States government.”
2) Mad King Donnie took to Twitter Friday to offer a thinly veiled threat to James Comey as well. He tweeted, ” James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” Nice, as if he wasn’t “Nixon-esque” enough beforehand…
On that nte, Democratic Reps. Elijah Cummings and John Conyers, the respective ranking members of the House oversight and judiciary committees said, “It is a crime to intimidate or threaten any potential witness with the intent to influence, delay, or prevent their official testimony…The President’s actions this morning — as well as his admission yesterday on national television that he fired Director Comey because he was investigating Trump campaign officials and their connections to the Russian government — raise the specter of possible intimidation and obstruction of justice. The President’s actions also risk undermining the ongoing criminal and counter-intelligence investigations and the independence of federal law enforcement agencies.”
3) Wednesday, our aspiring dictator invited the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak (“a key figure into the investigation of the Trump administration’s ties to Russia” (the same guy who Michael Flynn and Jeff Sessions met with (meetings they never disclosed) leading to Flynn’s firing and Sessions recusing himself from Russian investigation)) to the White House for a special conversation that, you know, only the Russian media was allowed to be present for. Let’s say that again. The United States press was barred from the meeting in the White House while Russian media was allowed in. It’s nothing if not intriguing that he’d host foreign diplomats from a country tied to major scandals in his own administration. It’s also terrifying that a) the American media was barred from the proceedings and b) even scarier that this wasn’t a bigger story this week.
The article also illustrates what I was writing of last week, how our mainstream media won’t do its job and speak truth to power. How does the freaking Washington Post end the piece addressing the issues above? “But, as we’ve learned again and again in these last 111 days, Trump is no ordinary president.” Uh…really?? We may be talking treason at the highest levels of our government and you’re saying he’s “no ordinary president”?!? This was the paper that brought down Nixon through the courage of Woodward and Berstein…what’s happened?
4) Trumpy is looking to name Sam Clovis as the head of the USDA, an organization in charge of overseeing everything from climate change to nutrition…except Clovis has no science credentials. So the man who may be appointed to oversee “scientific integrity” in the agency, in fact, “has never taken a graduate course in science and is openly skeptical of climate change. While he has a doctorate in public administration and was a tenured professor of business and public policy at Morningside College for 10 years, he has published almost no academic work. Clovis is better known for hosting a conservative talk radio show in his native Iowa and, after mounting an unsuccessful run for Senate in 2014, becoming a fiery pro-Trump advocate on television….Clovis was also responsible for recruiting Carter Page, whose ties to Russia have become the subject of intense speculation and scrutiny, as a Trump foreign policy advisor.”
5) Last Friday, Jeff Sessions – with a sad pride for the Confederacy still beating in his heart – ordered federal prosecutors to “charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense” in regard to drug dealers and drug traffickers, a shift he wants to happen immediately. However Michael Collins, deputy director of the Drug Policy Alliance told NPR, “This is a disastrous move that will increase the prison population, exacerbate racial disparities in the criminal justice system, and do nothing to reduce drug use or increase public safety. Sessions is taking the country back to the 1980s by escalating the failed policies of the drug war. The policy announced today is not tough on crime. It is dumb on crime. It is an ideologically motivated, cookie-cutter approach that has only been proven to generate unfairly long sentences that are often applied indiscriminately and do little to achieve long-term public safety.” Can we really be surprised Sessions would push a policy that unfairly targets minorities? Not if we’ve paid any remote attention to his career…
1) The Washington Post published a piece on May 14th that left me both sad and furious. Titled “The Painful Truth About Teeth,” and co-authored by Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan, the Post article explores the often-forgotten reality that dental care and coverage is a necessity that many people go without in the United States due to financial hardship. To frame the conversation, Jordan and Sullivan focus on a middle-aged woman named Dee Matello who, along with thousands of others, stood in line for hours at a convention center in Salisbury, MD to receive free dental work thanks to a group called Mission of Mercy. As they explain, Matello – whose family took a serious financial hit during the Great Recession – had been living with a broken molar for years, forgoing the cost of repairing the tooth and living with the pain because her family had other, more immediate expenses. In turn, as the authors tell Matello’s story, they do so while also taking a broader look at the topic of dental care in America. Providing stats, figures, and information that, quite frankly, I was never aware of, Jordan and Sullivan masterfully show that the United States is failing working-class and low-income Americans who cannot afford, or just do not have access to, the dental care they need.
For me, the fact that there are Americans who lack the basic necessity of routine dental care is a moral issue that MUST be fixed. As citizens, we need to petition and challenge our local, state, and national leaders to find ways to help Americans receive dental coverage that is not only affordable but provides for ALL of the routine work that one would need from a dentist. While it is encouraging to see organizations like Mission of Mercy helping those who are less fortunate get the care they need, we should not be content to sit idly by and let others do all the work. Oh no, it is imperative that we all unite and demand that dental care is a basic human necessity that everyone, no matter their background, deserves to have simply by virtue of their being a human being.
– Contributed by Jeffrey A. Cagle (of The Imperial Talker)
Now I turn to my faith, Jesus, scripture, and those who have followed those messages best to remind myself why I fight, how I fight, and who I fight for:
Given my struggles to banish a feeling of hate for love, this prayer has been a regular feature of late:
Jesus, Prince of Peace,
you have asked us to love our enemies
and pray for those who persecute us.
We pray for our enemies and those who oppose us.
With the help of the Holy Spirit,
may all people learn to work together
for that justice which brings true and lasting peace.
To you be glory and honor forever and ever.
The battle for justice is only just beginning. Join the Resistance! Give it all you have! I encourage anyone interested in helping speak out about and challenge the injustices growing around us to do so. If you’d like, reach out to me in the comments or message me on Twitter. You’re certainly welcome to send me news you’d like to see included! I am only one person and, as such, have a finite ability to track these things. If you happen to be a blogger or vlogger yourself, you’re also welcome to take what I post in these weekly calls to action and share it on your own site too if you feel so called. But, most of all, I hope you’ll take advantage of the direct link that is in this post and all the posts to follow to call – and keep calling – your representatives. Democracy works if we participate. Love will triumph if we have faith. We can’t give up our belief in those principles or we’ve already lost the struggle.
I want to close with one of my all time favorite U2 songs, “Window In The Skies.” This is what we can never forget. Love is what will redeem the world. The first verse points to freedom for slaves, and end to war, and an overturning of the “rule” of how the world should work. It points to the resurrection of the triumph of death and the cause for freedom from all debt. Love is the vehicle for this transformation. Bono moves through the verses from a personal, romantic relationship to love on the larger, global scale. He begs to never be released from love and acknowledges that with love there is no shame. In personal relationships we can all but kill one another but love opens a window to heaven and transforms everything. The window “over our heads” points clearly to heaven and the fact that we can see it “from our beds” shows that it is in love that we can most clearly see heaven. He blends the personal with the agapic understanding of love and allows one to both show us the possibility of the other as well as help take us there. Again and again U2 ask us, “Can’t you see what love has done / What it’s doin’ to me?” Love can change everything if we let it. Will we let it? Can’t we see?