To My Republican Friends

Hi.  It’s me.  Lisa.  Your friend, sister, aunt, extended relative, co-worker, motorcycling buddy.

For those of you who have been around a long time, you know I am a former Republican.

Now I am part of the angry, liberal mob who wants to take away your guns, open the borders, and provide free stuff to illegal aliens all while allowing anyone with a pulse the ability to vote illegally.  And while we’re at it, let’s open all the prisons and let those criminals come into our neighborhoods to rape and pillage.  I get a monthly check from George Soros and get all my information and talking points by attending the Deep State weekly conference calls, directly from Hillary Clinton.  Oh, and those bombs that got mailed to Trump’s top-12 list of enemies? Yeah, we did that too.  Just to start a war with all those patriotic Christians who believe Trump was sent here by God to save America.

Yep.  That’s me all right.

Remember when we were all smarter than to believe such crazy stuff as that?  Remember when you went to the grocery store and right there at the check-out counter was the National Enquirer and The Weekly World News (always with a space alien on the cover).  And you would laugh at the ridiculous headlines and shake your head and wonder how anyone could believe such garbage?

Well, I feel like I’m in that grocery line every minute of the day.  Except it’s not funny anymore.  It’s scary as hell.

You know me.  And I know you too.  I know where you come from, what struggles you’ve had and what came easily for you.  And because I know you, that is why it is so hard for me to accept that you have signed up to be a passenger on the crazy train that is the Trump Administration.

I wonder about it constantly.  How did we come to a place in this world where we stand on opposite sides of a ravine and can’t meet in the middle anymore?  Our conversations are stilted and tense.  We work hard to avoid any mention of current events.  Hell – we can’t even talk about the weather anymore.  Weather is a controversial subject.

Simple policy differences are not the problem here.  You are lined up with a corrupt liar who does everything he can to divide us.  He can’t even pretend to try to unite us.  He doesn’t want to.  He wants to keep us divided and mad at each other.

Wars used to be so simple.  One country would go to war against another country.  You knew where they were, what they looked like and they even wore uniforms, so you could tell the good guys from the bad guys.  The battlefields were drawn, and the carnage was carried out in a fairly efficient manner.  Sure, there was collateral damage, there always is.  But it was managed.

Oh, wait, why did I bring up “War,” you ask?  Well, because we are in one.  This war has been brewing for a long time, long before Trump took over.

White versus black.  Rich versus poor.  Immigrants versus citizens.  Gay versus straight.  Christians versus everyone else.  Liberals versus conservatives.  Do you think we got here by accident?

Unfortunately, in this war we all lose.  We lose our friends, our family, our co-workers, our motorcycling buddies.  

Make America Great Again.  That is what you voted for, right?  You had some idea that we had become less great and God Damn It that swamp needed draining.  And it’s all because those Snowflake Liberals want to take all your money and give it to those low-lifes who won’t get out and work for a living.  They want to turn us into a bunch of Socialists with affordable health care, free-and-open elections and a clean environment.  

Two years ago, America was actually pretty great.   Right now, I barely recognize my country.  And I barely recognize you.  My friends, my family, my co-workers, my motorcycling buddies.

What happened to you?  When did you quit caring about common decency?  When did you quit caring about men who cheat on their wives with porn actresses?  When did you quit caring about a President’s finances and taxes?  When did you quit caring about children taken from their parents?  When did you quit caring about every single vote being fairly cast and counted?  When did you quit caring about people going bankrupt because someone in their family got cancer?  When did you decide that science isn’t real and neither is the truth?  When did you decide that journalism was fake and that it’s ok to body slam or even murder reporters?  When did you start supporting the likes of Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un?  When did you decide that Canada, Mexico, Germany and the UK were no longer our allies?  When did you decide that an assassination attempt of TWO Presidents, a Vice President, a Secretary of State, a Congresswoman, a Senator, a CIA Director and others all in the same week in the same manner was no big deal?  

In a little over a week votes will be tabulated.  And we’ll find out if Americans want a check on this President or if they are totally fine with having one party in control of every single aspect of our lives.  We don’t know if all the votes will be counted or if our election systems have been hacked because our President and Congress don’t think we need to spend the money to ensure their security.  We don’t know how many votes will be thrown out or how many people will attempt to vote but will be turned away.  But I guarantee you that if there is this Blue Wave everyone is talking about, Trump will tell you the whole thing was rigged.  Further dividing us.

This is the America we live in now.  We now must doubt the very sanctity of our elections.  Again, this is no accident.  We are meant to doubt it because we are at war.

A war none of us common citizens wanted but through lies and manipulation we now find ourselves in.

Yes, I am out of the closet and I am liberal.  And I know you – because I once was you.  And I am certain you are rolling your eyes and scoffing at me at this very moment.  But I don’t care about that.  I care about what is good and moral about America.  I care about stupid patriotic things like equal rights for every single person.  I care about the words on the Statue of Liberty and how this country allowed my ancestors to flee their homes to start a new life here.  I care about my father fighting fascism in World War II and what he would think about the man sitting in the Oval Office.  I am certain he would not approve.  I care about having a Commander-In-Chief who uses complete sentences and proper grammar.  Someone who can be a true leader and unifier.  Every single past President in my lifetime was able to be that for us.  Even Nixon could be presidential.  But not this one.  

It’s not too late to shake off the stench of Trump and all the anger and corruption he has wrought on us.

Which side of history do you want to be on?  Despite our differences – I still love and care about you.  And I’m worried for all of us.

 

The Value of Fear

We all feel fear.  It is a natural impulse that helps get us out of situations where we may meet our demise.  We needed to feel fear in those early days when we were not at the top of the food chain.  Fear can be good.  But fear is also used as a weapon against us.

It is my opinion that all religions were born out of fear.  The fear of the unknown laid the groundwork for organized religions.  Oh sure, there is talk of deeper spirituality and enlightenment but at their core, keeping folks fearful of that one unanswerable question – what happens when we die – is what keeps many of us humans in line.

Images of burning in hell for eternity were enough to keep the majority of folks on the straight and narrow.  And that would be fine if that was the only thing feared by humans.

Meanwhile, there has always been those who figured out pretty quickly how easy it is to take advantage of other’s fears.  Control the fear, control the person.  Bullies do it, dictators do it, autocrats do it, religious leaders do it.  Politicians do it.  It has gone on since we humans developed cognitive thinking.

What do we fear?  Well, of course we fear for our survival.  At the most basic level, we are wired to survive at all costs.  But as we’ve evolved and the need to keep from being dinner for another species has all but disappeared, the need for that level of survival has diminished a good bit.

But that afterlife thing?  The fear of that continues.  I mean, really, who wants to spend eternity burning in hell?  Anyone?  I didn’t think so.  So, if you believe in that kind of thing, well, it is understandable that you would fear it.

So, if you were told that you had to act a certain way and believe certain things to keep that from happening?  Well, even if you were a bit skeptical about it, you would maybe hedge your bets and do what you’re told in order to avoid that fate.  Seems like the safe thing to do since none of us actually know the truth, right?

And that would be just fine as long as the behavior you have been instructed to emulate was nothing more than following that wonderful Golden Rule – Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

I love that.  I really, really do.  I make every attempt every single day to live by this one, simple rule.  I don’t read the Bible anymore.  I haven’t regularly attended church since high school.  I don’t identify with any religious organization.  But I believe in that Golden Rule.

I have a lot of Christian friends who believe in the Golden Rule too.  And if I were to ask them right now if they follow this rule they would surely say “Yes!  Of course I do!”  

But let’s dissect that simple sentence and focus on the word “others”.  Which “others” is that referring to?

Other living beings?  Other human beings?  Other Christians?  Other people of my race?  Other people of my gender?  Other people in my town?  Other people who share my political ideology?  What about all the “others” who I fear?

Through human evolution, those folks I mentioned above, those fear mongers?  Well, they figured out that if they could make us fear any who were different from us, then controlling us was that much easier.

And human conflict was born.  It’s one thing to fear the guy in the cave next door from stealing your dinner, forcing you to go hungry.  Sure, you’re gonna fight that guy to keep your dinner.

But we grew from that basic fear of survival into fearing anyone who might take anything we had of value.  Our food, our home, our land.  Our money in the form of tax dollars.  Our ideals.  Our values.  

As we evolved, this concept of human values became something that needed protection.  Protection from the “others” who we were told didn’t share those values.

And so we had to fear those people too.  The ones who wanted to steal our freedom and force us to live in a way that made us uncomfortable.  So we lined up with those like us.  Those who thought like us, believed in the same God, and would stand with us when it was time to protect our “values”.

Every culture on earth has these perceived values.  When it comes down to it, they aren’t even that different.  They are all based on the same simple rule – Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  Except that in most cultures, the “others” were clearly defined.

The “others” were us.  As long as the “other” looked like us, worshiped like us, loved like us, and voted like us, then we would show them kindness, compassion and respect.

But if they were part of those other “others”.  Well, no.  Not so much.  Those others should be feared.  

Why?  Because we were told to fear them.  They want to take what is ours.  Change the way we live.  And force their beliefs on us.  We must fear that.  And we must fight it with everything we have.

Why?  Because they are different.

Why?  Well…

Why?

If you fear someone because they don’t look like you or their gender/sexuality doesn’t fit into a easy box on a form.  If you fear someone who is fleeing a horrible life in hopes of finding a decent one.  If you fear equal rights for all human beings.

Ask yourself why.  Ask yourself where that fear came from.  Does your very survival depend on how you treat those “others”?

Or does your fear of the “others” provide value to those who capitalize on it?

If all that fear dissipates what happens to those who use fear to control?

They lose power.  And they fear that more than anything else.

 

 

It’s Rigged All Right

That is really what all the angst is about.  A rigged political system.  It didn’t happen overnight or in one election cycle.  It has been a planned, concerted effort for a very long time.  Us snowflakes aren’t up in arms because we lost the election, necessarily.  It’s just that we finally woke up and saw what had been happening for a long time.  The system was being stacked in favor of Conservatives.  And it happened right out in the open while we were still believing our government belonged to all of us, regardless of political affiliation.

The Republicans have used every trick in the book to make for a very, unlevel playing field.  The numbers don’t lie.  There are more voters who tend to vote Democrat.  That was obvious in the 2016 election.  And yet, here we are with another Republican president who did not win the popular vote.

It’s not just the electoral college that makes the field so lop-sided.  Voter suppression, gerrymandering, a Senate where a majority of Senators represent a minority of citizens, and just plain, old, dirty tricks (Merrick Garland ring a bell?) have all been used to keep the minority in power.

And yet, my Republican friends keep saying “Get over it.  You lost.”  Well, gee.  How would you like it if the opposite were true?  Let’s just imagine that Hillary Clinton was President today and she had lost the popular vote.  Can you even imagine the wailing and gnashing of teeth?  Especially if she were to have even one of the multitude of scandals that our current Commander In Chief has?

The Republicans are nervous about the mid-terms and with good reason.  And they are pulling out all the stops.  All of us whining snowflakes are now a “MOB”.  Yep, us ladies marching around in our pink p-hats are pretty scary, aren’t we?  We might yell at you in an elevator or a restaurant.  We aren’t the ones with most of the guns.  What will we do?  Hit you with our knitted hats?

I can’t speak for others but I don’t want any thing that looks like an unlevel playing field.  In either direction.  Our government used to work well because it was typically balanced.  Our leaders knew the meaning of compromise and used it to represent ALL of us.  President Trump has been perfectly clear on at least one point.  He only represents those who voted for him.  The rest of us be damned.  That’s no way to run a country that likes to hold itself up as the greatest country in the world.  I’m afraid that ship has sailed.

I blame Newt.  That’s really when it all seemed to start unraveling.  Newt Gingrich threw all the rules out the window and created an atmosphere similar to a bar room brawl.  And he’s still gloating about it.  This is long but well worth the read:

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/11/newt-gingrich-says-youre-welcome/570832/

It is no coincidence that this was around the time my slow transformation from Republican to Democrat began.

The worse thing (and yes, it can be worse) that could happen would be for everything to go exactly the opposite way.  We would be trading one group of disenfranchised people for another.

No.  We need to restore some semblance of fairness.  As of right now, it is not fair.

It is rigged.  Plain and simple.

A better essay than I could ever write is here:

https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/10/16/17951596/kavanaugh-trump-senate-impeachment-avenatti-democrats-2020-supreme-court

 

 

The View From Topeka

I have a habit of driving/riding around the United States looking for roadside oddities and interesting historical sites and markers.  I guess it’s more of a hobby.  Anyway, I get to see a lot of what is good in our country and a lot of what is bad.  Leaving the interstate for local highways, small towns, and dirt roads gives me a perspective on our culture, our history and our future that those who prefer to “make good time” never get to observe.  I’ve traveled to all but two states this way and I’ve covered most areas of those forty eight states.

When traveling alone I rarely turn on the radio or listen to music.  I’m busy driving so I don’t check social media.  I focus on my surroundings because I don’t want to miss anything.  If I pass something that might be of interest, I’ll turn around and go find it.  It has been those unplanned detours that have given me the most indelible experiences.

So this is how I wound up in Topeka, Kansas on a drizzly, chilly, fall afternoon.  I came to see The Equality House.

The Equality House is the headquarters of a non-profit organization called Planting Peace.   From their website:

“The Equality House is a symbol of compassion, peace, and positive change. The house, which is painted the colors of the Pride flag, serves as the resource center for all Planting Peace human rights initiatives and stands as a visual reminder of our commitment, as global citizens, to equality for all.”

Equality House

It sits on a corner lot of a quiet residential neighborhood of mostly 50s-60s tract houses.  The area is well-maintained but it’s obvious they don’t have any neighborhood covenants.  This paint job would not make it past most HOAs.

And while all of this is interesting, it is the location of this house that really makes an impact.  It sits directly across the street from this:
Not Equality House

That would be Westboro Baptist Church.  The folks who protest at the funerals of veterans.  The folks who, in the name of God, hate pretty much everyone.  But mostly LGBQT people.

As the drizzle started to become a rain, I stood on the street between these two buildings and just kept looking back and forth from one to the other.  It was surreal and sad.  I felt sorry for the people who live in this neighborhood.  Can you imagine getting in your car to go to work every morning and looking at a giant banner declaring that God Hates Fags?

But I was also filled with a bit of hope.  The brave folks at Planting Peace decided to take a stand for goodness and kindness and did so by putting it right there in the Westboro congregation’s face.  When they come to this building to do whatever despicable things they do, they are reminded that those they hate are right outside their door.

It was time to start heading north so I left this place with a disposition as grey as the weather.  My GPS took me to Gage Boulevard.  In about two miles she wanted me to turn left.

The road was blocked by a police car.  I noticed there were lots of people walking on both sides of the street.  There were families with kids and strollers.  I saw some balloons shaped like candy corn so I assumed there was some sort of fall festival going on.  I continued straight and my GPS began her frantic refrain of “Recalculating!”.

Now I saw that every side street on both sides of the road were being blocked by police cars.  And there were even more people.  Hundreds.  Some of them were carrying signs but were shielding them from the rain so I couldn’t see what they said.  I came to an intersection that wasn’t blocked so I could make my left turn.  As I made the turn I saw that I was coming to a large building that looked like a civic center.  The crowds were heavier and I could finally see the signs.

“Dump Trump”  “Impeach”  “Kava Nope”

I had landed right in the middle of a Trump rally.  That will teach me to not listen to the news.  The right side of the street was full of Trump protesters while the side by the auditorium seemed to be the Trump supporters.  The crowd had swelled to thousands.  I could see a long line of people attempting to get into the building.  Everyone else was just milling around.

I immediately wanted to park my car and join the protesters.  Damn, I didn’t have my “I’m With Her” Statue of Liberty protest sign!  But that wasn’t going to happen.  Every street was closed for about a mile in each direction.  While I stopped at the next traffic light and was pondering how to find a place to park I saw a family waiting to cross the street.

Grandma & Grandpa, Mom & Dad, several kids and a baby.  All of the males had on MAGA hats and it was obvious those were the newest pieces of clothing they had.  They had a bedraggled look to them and it wasn’t just because of the rain.  They all looked a little overwhelmed.  I got very emotional as I watched them waiting for the light to change.  It seemed to take a really long time.  I came very close to rolling down my window to say, “You know, he doesn’t care about you.  He’s here to brag about himself.”

But I didn’t say anything.  I just wanted to get the hell out of Topeka.  As I headed north toward home the rain got heavier and it got dark.  I drove for two more hours before I finally stopped for the night.

As I drove in silence I thought about the people at Westboro Baptist Church and the MAGA family.  And I thought about my own family members and friends who keep making excuses for Trump and the Republicans.  The Republicans who had successfully taken over every single branch of our government, by any means necessary, as of that afternoon.  Effectively removing all checks and balances that our founding fathers had attempted to put in place.

And I asked myself all the questions that I’ve been asking since “The Election”.

Why are they ok with the lies?

Why are they ok with the bragging?

Why are they ok with the insults?

Why are they ok with tearing apart our relationships with our allies?

Why are they ok with Putin and Kim?

Why are they ok with election tampering?

Why are they ok with taking children from their parents?

Why are they ok with the racism, bigotry, and misogyny?

Why are they ok with corruption?

Why are they ok with attacks on our justice system?

Why are they ok with having no checks and balances in place to tamper this administration’s worse impulses?

Why are they ok with denying science, facts, logic and reason?

Why are they ok with the clear lack of compassion and empathy?

Why are they ok with all of it?

The view from Topeka is the same as every other town in America.  We stand on different sides of the same street.  And we can’t seem to meet in the middle anymore.