It was Barack Obama’s birthday on 4 August! To celebrate, I have a couple clips here to remind us of what a classy, intelligent leader he was. They also bring some humor too. However, there’s also important news we need to try and process so we can’t get lost in nostalgia. Let’s get to it! As usual, 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.
In honor of President Obama’s birthday last week, I wanted to open and close this piece with a few clips that made me smile and think of his presidency. Here’s Bill Maher underscoring the audacious nature of Republican hypocrisy by having Reggie Brown impersonate Barack Obama and read actual lines spoken by Trump. Putting the words of our Cheeto-in-Chief in the mouth of Barack Obama is hilarious annnnnd a wonderful reminder of the GOP’s modus operandi – hypocrisy for all, power/money/safety juuuuuust for the white guys who give them money. Also, this marks Real Time with Bill Maher‘s first appearance in this series! Woo! Welcome Bill.
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) Congress is on its August recess, with neither the House nor the Senate in session until 5 September. However, that doesn’t mean we are to be silent. This means they won’t be voting but it also means they should be listening to constituents. Now’s a great time to call your representative and your senators and let them know what’s important to you and what they need to be focusing on. Just because they are on recess doesn’t mean they’re on vacation. Be loud! Whether it’s “thank you”s or reprimands, let them hear you. Remind them they work for you too.
These aren’t matters our reps will vote on directly but they are still important news we should be aware of:
1) While Trumpy was tweet-banning the transgender community from service in the military and the Scaramucchi Meltdown was all over the news, financier Bill Browder testified before the Senate in regard to the extent of Russian influence in our government. Browder describes, in detail, “a Russian system of government that operates in the shadows using corruption, blackmail, torture and murder – all led by Vladimir Putin. Browder said: ‘Effectively the moment that you enter into their world, you become theirs.'” He also confirmed Natalia Veselnitskaya, the woman Donnie Jr. met with last summer, was part of a “group of Russians acting on behalf of the Russian state.”
2) The Atlantic published the full text of Bill Browder’s testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee. It is frightening both in its description of Russian measures and the implications for how they are working within our country.
3) Special Counsel Robert Mueller has begun “using a grand jury in federal court in Washington several weeks ago as part of his investigation of possible coordination between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign….a sign that investigators continue to aggressively gather evidence in the case, and that Mueller is taking full control of a probe that predated him.”
4) The Trump Administration has put forward a plan that would cut legal immigration in half “within a decade by sharply curtailing the ability of American citizens and legal residents to bring family members into the country.”
“The plan would enact the most far-reaching changes to the system of legal immigration in decades and represents the president’s latest effort to stem the flow of newcomers to the United States. Since taking office, he has barred many visitors from select Muslim-majority countries, limited the influx of refugees, increased immigration arrests and pressed to build a wall along the southern border….Critics said the proposal would undercut the fundamental vision of the United States as a haven for the poor and huddled masses….More than one million people are granted legal residency each year, and the proposal would reduce that by 41 percent in its first year and 50 percent by its 10th year, according to projections cited by its sponsors. The reductions would come largely from those brought in through family connections….Cutting legal immigration would make it harder for Mr. Trump to reach the stronger economic growth that he has promised. ”
5) The New York Times reported that Attorney General Jeff Sessions is pointiing the Justice Department’s civil rights division towards “investigating and suing universities over affirmative action admissions policies deemed to discriminate against white applicants….[and] cuts to the heart of programs designed to bring more minority students to university campuses.” (As we all know, there’s no persecution like the persecution of white Americans…holy shit. Wow. This is real people. Each day feels more like a hidden camera show.) The Atlantic offered an important analysis of this move while discussing the motives/consequences behind the action and exploring similar moves through our history.
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) Trevor Noah explores the very real dangers inherent in Russia’s military posturing in the wake of Congress passing extreme sanctions against both the country in general and Moscow specifically as well as North Korea’s ability to launch a nuclear missile as far as New York City. Sure you laugh…but this is also terrifying news.
2) Last week White House policy advisor Stephen Miller justified Trump’s cruel immigration plan by saying the poem on the Statue of Liberty was added later and not part of the Statue’s original spirit. Thankfully Stephen Colbert cuts him down on The Late Show with all the humor and prophetic fire you’d expect.
3) After the health care victory last week, Samantha Bee looks back at the seven years of sabotage and misinformation the Republicans have been leveling at the Affordable Care Act and skewers them for it. Go Sam!
4) “It’s official. Donald Trump is a dictator…” hahaha, oh Stephen, I love you. It’s also worth enjoying this clip for his short rendition of “Cat’s In The Cradle.” Classic Colbert!
5) The Daily Show looks at Attorney General Jeff Sessions legal crusade against colleges who have discriminated against white people.
6) Samantha Bee traveled to the Middle East for a field piece and the result was surprising. Many of the Kurdish people find a sense of hope in Trump’s administration. It’s an important piece showing how U.S. foreign policy affects the world’s view of our country and our leaders.
1) Arnold Schwarzenegger unveiled a new environmental initiative in an effort to counter the disastrous effect the Trump Administration wants to have on our environmental progress and empower states to continue the revolution in clean energy and green technology. This “digital environmental legislative handbook” will provide states with “a comprehensive curated list of legal and legislative research, voting records, and bill language and data to help them prepare bills on a wide range of environment action, including air quality, renewable energy, health and climate change. ” This is a helpful reminder that not all Republicans have abandoned their principles, morality, and sanity in service of the Orange One.
2) George Lakoff, co-author of Metaphors We Live By, discusses the disturbing metaphors that seem to be guiding Trump’s mentality in the White House. “Louis IV, King of France, was famous for saying, L’état, c’est moi — I am the state — a metaphor that a king could live by, or at least try to. Roger Cohen, on May 19, 2017, in a NY Times op-ed titled L’état, c’est Trump, pointed out ways in which Trump has acted as if he had absolute power, like a despot. True. But there is a lot more to say. When John Lengacher and I closely analyzed language coming out of the White House, it became clear that Trump has internalized and has been living by a central metaphor: THE PRESIDENT IS THE NATION.”
3) Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ), wrote a piece for Politico entitled, “My Party Is In Denial About Donald Trump.” The piece is an excerpt from his soon-to-be published book Conscience of a Conservative. In it he asserts:
“[W]e conservatives mocked Barack Obama’s failure to deliver on his pledge to change the tone in Washington even as we worked to assist with that failure. It was we conservatives who, upon Obama’s election, stated that our No. 1 priority was not advancing a conservative policy agenda but making Obama a one-term president—the corollary to this binary thinking being that his failure would be our success and the fortunes of the citizenry would presumably be sorted out in the meantime. It was we conservatives who were largely silent when the most egregious and sustained attacks on Obama’s legitimacy were leveled by marginal figures who would later be embraced and legitimized by far too many of us….If by 2017 the conservative bargain was to go along for the very bumpy ride because with congressional hegemony and the White House we had the numbers to achieve some long-held policy goals—even as we put at risk our institutions and our values—then it was a very real question whether any such policy victories wouldn’t be Pyrrhic ones. If this was our Faustian bargain, then it was not worth it. If ultimately our principles were so malleable as to no longer be principles, then what was the point of political victories in the first place?”
4) NPR gives us this must-read piece analyzing the Trump Administration’s use of culture wars – from a new cut to legal immigration to attempting to ban transgender people from military service to law suits in the name of the persecution of white Americans in the college application process – to fire up his base as his approval ratings drop, he comes under closer legal scrutiny, and the attempt to kill the Affordable Care Act failed.
“No single issue has been a greater animating force for the Republican base over the past decade than immigration — except maybe the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). And with the failure of GOP health care efforts in Congress and sliding poll numbers this summer, the Trump White House seems to be making a concerted effort to elevate cultural wedge issues, from immigration and a ban on transgender people in the military to affirmative action and police conduct.”
5) Finally, returning to the Obama-inspired theme at the top of this post, here’s “My President Was Black,” the brilliant piece Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote for The Atlantic in the final days of President Obama’s term. Coates, a vocal critic of Obama’s on many issues – especially those of racial equality and race relations – looks back on the historical significance of Barack Obama being the first black president in the history of the United States of America.
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:
This prayer is featured on the USCCB’s site as a Prayer for Community and it comes from Being Neighbor: The Catechism and Social Justice. I find this prayer helpful as a reminder of the community we are trying to build as well as how we’re supposed to do it.
You grace each of us with equal measure in your love.
Let us learn to love our neighbors more deeply,
so that we can create
peaceful and just communities.
Inspire us to use our creative energies
to build the structures we need
to overcome the obstacles
of intolerance and indifference.
May Jesus provide us the example needed
and send the Spirit to warm our hearts for the journey.
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.
This last clip isn’t current, obviously. But we’re celebrating President Obama! So I figured it would be nice to take a little look back and fondly remember how classy, intelligent, well spoken, and funny he was. Here was his final appearance on The Late Show before he left office. As you’re enjoying the humor, remember President Obama first gained national notoriety by calling us to embrace the audacity of hope. Let’s not lose that!