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Archive for the ‘government’ Category

What are you willing to sacrifice?

That’s a question every white person should be asking themselves right now.

“What am I willing to sacrifice in order to be anti-racist and resist the Trump administration?”

If the answer is “nothing,” you’re part of the problem, and you’ve come to the wrong place. Part of talking with other white people, especially those we know well, is that there have to be consequences for bad behavior. If someone you know is racist, and their beliefs are never challenged and they never face consequences for it, why would they change? Maybe they don’t deserve your loyalty or the gift of your company anymore.

I fully expect to be ending relationships with people in the days and weeks ahead. I used to be able to agree to disagree on politics. Not anymore. Someone who cannot see my humanity and the humanity of millions of Americans is not someone I want in my life.

If, however, there are people in your life you think can change, or if you need to work on your own views, here are some more things to think about:

–If a person of color says something or someone is racist, don’t argue with them. Don’t say “well, actually,” or defend the racism. The same applies if someone tells you that you have said or done something racist. Don’t be defensive. Don’t deny it. You’re being given a chance to identify and change your behavior. Take it and be grateful. An example of how not to act would be Ellen DeGeneres. She has done racist things on her show and continues to deny her racism. (This is also why the “I have a black friend so I can’t be racist” trope is false. DeGeneres is clearly a fan of Barack and Michelle Obama, yet she obviously at the same time holds racist views about black people.) It doesn’t matter what her intentions were. Few people would admit to being deliberately racist.

A good example of how to behave is Chris Hemsworth, who this year apologized for appropriating First Nations clothing at a party.  He didn’t make excuses. He acknowledged he should have known better and apologized. That’s how it’s done.

–Don’t be the person who says “talking about racism is racist.” Talking about racism is its only possible solution.

–Know that racism is not a mental illness. Neither is sexism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, ableism, or Islamophobia. They are learned behaviors. Mental illnesses are not. That’s why it’s dangerous (and ableist) to dismiss Trump and people with similar views as “crazy,” “nutjobs,” “lunatic,” etc. It denies the racist person agency and obscures the fact they have control over their behavior. They can choose not to be racist, or sexist, or homophobic, etc. People who are mentally ill cannot choose not to be.

–Speaking of ableism, people who are disabled and receive government support are some of the most vulnerable under a Trump administration. Cuts to the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security/SSDI are literally a matter of life and death for some people. Do not forget them and their struggle. One of the things that struck me about the deaths caused by Hurricane Matthew was how many of the people used wheelchairs. We must do better for people with disabilities so they can lead full, healthy lives. Consider donating to Human Rights Watch or Disability Rights Advocates.

–Finally, here are some good resources for how to have those hard conversations with people at Thanksgiving (itself a racist holiday) this year:

How to Tell Someone They Should Racist by the incomparable Jay Smooth

A post-election guide to changing hearts and minds

Speak up: Responding to everyday bigotry

 

 

 

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What white people need to do to resist the Trump administration

After the violence and protests in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014, I started following journalist Sarah Kendzior on Twitter. She was a local white woman who had a lot of insightful commentary. Eventually she started posting about Donald Trump and the danger he posed to the country. I didn’t disagree with her, but she was also sure he would win. I thought that she was being alarmist. I knew what the polls said. I knew many people who had worked to re-elect President Obama were also working for Hillary Clinton. I was pretty confident we would get the right woman for the job. Last spring, I muted Kendzior.

Then, of course, everything she predicted came true. Trump won the election, and his bizarre behavior over the course of the campaign made sense through the authoritarian lens Kendzior provided from reporting on Central Asian dictatorships.

I am not a conspiracy theorist. I am not paranoid. But I believe the United States is heading toward being an authoritarian dictatorship faster than the majority of the population realizes. I underestimated the threat Trump posed once. I will not do it again. We cannot afford to. As the saying goes, “Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” And because Americans are convinced of our exceptionalism, believe “it can’t happen here,” it will. It already is, faster than most of us can keep track.

This is not normal is only a partial list of all of the things that are abnormal–racist, misogynist, corrupt, immoral, etc–about the incoming administration. Every day, there are more things to add to it. It’s difficult to keep up, which is why a lot of it isn’t being reported as vigorously as it should be. Trump settled a fraud lawsuit over Trump University. His daughter is sitting in on visits with foreign dignitaries. White supremacists are being nominated for Cabinet posts. NONE OF THIS IS NORMAL.

This is not politics as usual. This is the freedom of our country and the world at stake. As someone on Twitter so aptly put it, the United States is one terrorist attack away from becoming a military state. And there are no checks on his power. The Republicans will go along with it. Democrats may put up a token resistance but people like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, supposedly liberal lions, are already talking about compromising with Trump.

There is no compromising with a fascist.

Our institutions have failed us. The only thing we have is ourselves. Our belief in a better world than the one Trump envisions. The certainty that he and his supporters are a minority of the population. Roughly half of the voting population didn’t (or couldn’t, because of suppression) vote, about 25 percent voted for Hillary, and slightly less than that voted for Trump. Hillary won the popular vote by more than 1 million votes (and counting). There is reasonable suspicion that Russia hacked our systems and swung things Trump’s way. At the very least, there should be an investigation into foreign interference in a U.S. election.

I believe dire times are ahead; indeed, they are already here. The day after the election, there were reports of up to eight trans youths who had completed suicide because they were terrified of living under a Trump administration. Another woman had a friend complete suicide because she knew her health care would be taken away, and she could not live without it. Hundreds of hate crimes have taken place. And it will undoubtedly escalate.

There is little good news to be found since Nov. 8. However, there ARE things we can do to resist Trump and fight for the future. Here is a far-from-complete list:

–First, no safety pins. Most people who are being targeted by Trump–people of color, immigrants, Muslims–see this as an empty gesture with little real effect. And white supremacists are already planning to co-opt it and use the pins as bait to attack unsuspecting people.

–Call your senators and representatives and let them know you oppose any effort to put Steven Bannon and Jeff Sessions in the White House. Calling is more effective than emailing. If aides are on the phone all day taking calls, their bosses will hear about it. Call regardless of which party your representatives are. Let them know you are watching them closely and will hold them accountable for their actions.

–Donate to organizations that will be on the front lines: the ACLU, your local abortion fund, Planned Parenthood, Black Alliance for Just Immigration, Trevor Project, CAIR, Sacred Stone Camp (fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline), Black Lives Matter, NAACP, Southern Poverty Law Center.

–Reach out to your local mosque, synagogue, temple, and black church and ask what you can do to help. Let them know you will stand with them in the coming months and years.

–Consider running for office. Too many down-ballot Republicans run unopposed. Republicans understand many of the decisions affecting people’s everyday lives are made at the local level. Democrats haven’t made many strides here. If you can’t run for office, recruit your friends to do it.

–Donate to Foster Campbell, a Democrat running for Senate in Louisiana. He’s in a runoff election in December and could secure another seat for the Democrats in the Senate, which would be crucial. If you’re near Louisiana, consider volunteering for him. Encourage your friends and family nearby to do the same.

–Donate to and volunteer with your state Democratic Party. This is important for many reasons. First, the statehouses are the ones that do the redistricting for congressional seats. There will be a census in 2020, and whichever party is in control at the time will determine the congressional districts. In 2010, Democrats didn’t turn out to vote, and Republicans swept to power in statehouses across the country. They gerrymandered districts so that even though House Democrats, like Hillary Clinton, won the popular vote nationwide, Republicans are safely in control of the House. We cannot let them continue to dominate statehouses. Second, it takes three-fourths of states to ratify amendments to the Constitution. If many more statehouses turn Republican, they will have a clear path to doing away with any amendment they don’t like (for example, the First), and adding any amendment they please (forbidding marriage equality, ensuring lifetime terms for presidents, prohibiting abortion, whatever your nightmare scenario might be). The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee is a nationwide group devoted to putting Democrats in more statehouses.

–Work to restore voting rights to disenfranchised people and felons. Voter suppression worked exactly the way the Republicans wanted. We must push back against this and work to expand voting rights. It’s crucial to our democracy.

–President Obama and former Attorney General Eric Holder have created the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, which has a similar goal to the DLCC. Watch for more information on that and how you can get involved.

–Hold people accountable for normalizing Trump. There is no “everyone does it,” “both parties do it,” “nothing to worry about here.” Every. Single. Thing. He. Does. Is. Not. Normal. The media have already started by refusing to call white supremacists what they are. They won’t call a racist racist or a fascist fascist. Words have meaning. We need to use them.

–Read this and believe it: Autocracy: Rules for Survival

Read this.

–Lastly, but most importantly, we white people need to work on our racism. Many anti-racism activists and researchers, including Jane Elliott, believe we are all racist simply for growing up in the country we did. The United States is a country built on racism–first the genocide and colonization of indigenous people, then slavery, Jim Crow, mass incarceration. We have never acknowledged any of it. Too many white people, who often only know other white people, believe racism is a thing of the past. They think black people talk about racism too much. They insist “I don’t see color.” It’s easy not to think about race when you’re white because it affords us so much privilege. We aren’t targeted by police for being white. We’re not incarcerated at higher rates for being white. We’re not denied housing, education and employment for being white. We don’t die at earlier ages because we’re white. The list goes on.

We are all taught racism, if not by our parents, then by our culture. I grew up in a predominantly white area. There were no black students in my class until I got to high school. I had maybe two teachers who were people of color until I got to college, though I did have one white science teacher who would perform in blackface each year for his lessons on George Washington Carver. This teacher admired Carver and I’m sure he thought he was honoring Carver by wearing blackface. The administration allowed this. My classmates thought it eccentric but not incredibly racist, as it is for me in hindsight.

My classmates were more likely to be Asian–Chinese, Thai, Korean, Indian, Pakistani–than black. There were two or three black students in my class of 300+ people. And it never occurred to me to discriminate against them for anything, but it also didn’t occur to me until years later how hard it must have been for them to live and grow up and learn in such a white area.

So, just because you don’t go around saying the n-word, that doesn’t mean you can congratulate yourself on not being racist. Being non-racist is a lifelong process. It’s a matter of degree. It’s being able to call each other out when we mess up. It’s being able to admit most of our favorite popular culture is racist–because most of it is created by white people. And it’s important to remember that liking it doesn’t automatically make you a bad person. But it’s also important to know that the issues are there.

Some favorites who are problematic: Elizabeth Warren claimed Native American ancestry, which genealogy has disproved. She has never really apologized or had a conversation about why what she did was wrong. That is racist. JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series, which I love dearly, is racist. Her new series is racist. The Lord of the Rings is racist. Star Wars is racist. Katy Perry is racist. Gwen Stefani is racist. Johnny Depp is racist and an abuser. Cultural appropriation is a real thing. Stealing someone’s culture and identity for your own use is racist and wrong. White people having dreadlocks is racist. Saying things like “you speak English so well” is racist. Asking a person of color where they’re from is racist. Buying into the “welfare queen” stereotype is racist (the majority of welfare beneficiaries are white, not black). Consuming all-white media and not criticizing whitewashing is racist.

It’s also racist to think there is such a thing as reverse racism. Racism is based on power structures. As long as there has been a United States, white people have held the power. White people have never been an oppressed population here. So people of color may dislike white people as a group or stereotype them, but they cannot be racist against white people. However, they can be racist against fellow people of color. White supremacy is a powerful thing, and it rewards people of color who buy into its myths, the same way patriarchy rewards sexist women (e.g. Phyllis Schlafly, Ann Coulter, Sarah Palin, etc).

Don’t assume racism is something that will die out with older generations. Young people are plenty racist. Racism is taught, so if Baby Boomers and Gen X are racist, their children will be too. There’s also no rule that says just because you have one black friend you can’t be racist, or because you have gay friends you can’t be homophobic. It doesn’t work that way.

If you know people of color, remember it’s not their job to educate you about all of this. It’s your job to learn and do your own research. People of color have had to learn how to live in a white society to survive. White people’s lives don’t depend on knowing the ins and outs of black culture and history, so we are ignorant. The good news is, there are plenty of resources available. Go to your library. Use your friend Google. Make sure  to study and read authors and researchers who are people of color.

When the economy crashes–because Trump has plainly stated that’s his goal–remember it was white people who voted him into office and white people who implemented his policies. He will try to blame everyone else for what happens. Nothing is ever his fault. Remember. It’s not the fault of immigrants. It’s not the fault of people of color. It’s completely Trump and the people who voted for him.

 

 

 

Supporting the president doesn’t mean agreeing with everything he does

I’ve talked about this before (“Why I volunteer for the president despite disagreeing with him”) but it bears repeating after a couple of incidents this week. First, President Obama said of California Attorney General Kamala Harris, “She also happens to be by far the best-looking attorney general in the country.” Obama and Harris are friends, but it was inappropriate to comment on her appearance in a professional setting. Obama apologized Thursday, and that should be the end of it.

Second, and a much bigger deal, a federal judge ruled Friday that emergency contraception must be available without a prescription to people of all ages. Right now, a prescription is required for ages 16 and younger. However, as the judge made quite clear in his ruling, and as has been obvious for a while, that requirement has no basis in medical fact. In 2011, the FDA recommended that EC be available to all regardless of age, and in an unprecedented move, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius overruled it.

I have never been so angry with the administration as I was that day. It was a political decision that was straight out of the Bush administration’s MO. I had voted for Obama because he had promised to make decisions based on science, and he broke that promise. Emergency contraception is safer than aspirin. Just because some people may be uncomfortable with a 13-year-old taking EC doesn’t mean she shouldn’t be able to.

I was hopeful that after the judge ruled, the Obama administration would accept the decision. However, it doesn’t sound promising; press secretary Jay Carney said, “We do not have enough evidence to show that all those who could use this medicine, Plan B, can understand the label and use the product appropriately. It could be dangerous if misused.”

No. It really couldn’t. I’m disappointed that at first blush, the administration is doubling down.

HOWEVER.

Obama has still done far and away more good for women than harm. The first bill he signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. He rescinded the global gag rule. He appointed Hillary Clinton secretary of state and two women to the Supreme Court. He passed the Affordable Care Act and mandated copay-free birth control. He supports marriage equality. He repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. He has refused to defend the Defense of Marriage Act. When the DREAM Act couldn’t get through Congress, he issued an executive order making it easier for undocumented young people to stay in the country.

The list could go on. No, obviously Obama isn’t perfect. He can do and say sexist things — like most of us. Fortunately, when that’s pointed out to him, he’s willing to apologize and learn.

I hold out hope that like his stance on marriage equality, Obama will “evolve” to understand young people’s sexuality isn’t scary and they should have every tool available to be safe and healthy.

If you work at a nonprofit, you deserve to die

That was pretty much the gist of the comments on an editorial I read Tuesday: Breast cancer, health insurance and an apology to President Obama. The author, Spike Dolomite Ward, was recently diagnosed with stage three breast cancer. Her family was uninsured and she was frantic about how she was going to pay the bills for her treatment. Then she found out about the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan, which “guarantees access to insurance for U.S. citizens with pre-existing conditions who have been uninsured for at least six months.” Dolomite Ward says:

The application was short, the premiums are affordable, and I have found the people who work in the administration office to be quite compassionate (nothing like the people I have dealt with over the years at other insurance companies). It’s not perfect, of course, and it still leaves many people in need out in the cold. But it’s a start, and for me it’s been a lifesaver — perhaps literally.

I should have known better than to read the comments. There isn’t a single issue you can post on the Internet without attracting at least one troll. (Updates on the Jerry Sandusky case led more than one person to say alleged victims were coming forward only to make money.) And throughout the day I was writing this post, the title of the editorial changed (to “‘Obamacare’ to the rescue”) and some of the nastiest comments were deleted by the LA Times. But many remained, of which the following are just a sample:

Sophiac3: What infuriates me is that she has a house… that she owns. She chose to keep it instead of insuring her family. That is the most irresponsible thing I can imagine.

BlakeSDavis: What a bunch of baloney. Another stunt for Obama. …Even if this woamn’s story is true, it has a hollow feel to it… Hope you’re happy lady, because you go your bills paid at the expense of everyone else!

Will Bergeron: Set aside for a moment the fact that if she was so responsible, perhaps being faced with dire economic conditions, it might not have been the best of times for her husband to “start a new business” and pay for health insurance out of pocket… and maybe her “business” as an artist might not be the best idea ever, and that – oh the horror – it might be a better idea to find a “regular” job that pays the bills and provides health insurance in the meantime while they get back on their feet and can more realistically “take chances”… and lets set aside the fact that selling their house and renting would have been a better idea than losing health insurance.

MarkLucky: Personal Responsibility is what we should be preaching — not the message of watch to government save my sorry butt because I lived beyond my means… this poor lady should have sold her house and moved to a place to live that was within her means… probably well before cashing in a 401K or any other measure she took to try and maintain the lifestyle clearly beyond her means… now her irresponsibility becomes my problem??  Yeah, that seems fair…

IntellectGetOne: Perhaps you missed the part about her living in the Valley?  Her having her own home?  Her living a lifestyle by CHOICE where she decided NOT to spend money on health insurance so she and her husband could continue to pursue their dreams?  Where she and her husband did not want to move or sell their expensive home — and now, she wants us to thank Barrack Obama for giving her health insurance?Hey, if the President wants to pay for her out of his pocket — more power to him.  But for him to pass a law that forces the rest of us to pay for her decisions and her spending patterns and her wonderful, glorious lifestyle out in the Valley — then that, my friend — is just plain wrong.

IntellectGetOne: Gee, instead of apologizing and then thanking Barak Obama, maybe you could apologize to the rest of us and thank us? We all made hard choices and took jobs as working stiffs so we could pay our insurance.  You got to go the non-profit route and keep your nice home in the Valley.  Now you get the benefit of health insurance on our dime. The least you could do is thank us for paying for your mistake.

William Plantagenet: How dare you make me pay for your decisions. While you decided to become an artist (starving artist comes to mind) with some silly non profit instead of a nurse or an accountant, and your husband decided to try to strike it rich, I continued to pay for my own family’s healthcare. You decided to live in the expensive San Fernando Valley instead of Fargo or Ottumwa. You decided your own spending priorities. You decided an expensive area is more important than your healthcare. You decided trying to start a business is more important than your heathcare. You decided having a job to be creative was more important than having a job with healthcare.I have zero sympathy for people like you who want ME TO BAIL YOU OUT. I decided differently and am now being forced to pay higher premiums to freeloaders like you. You make a decision, you take the consequences, good or bad. You make me sick.

sub2800: But at least she thanks you for it.. oh wait no she thanked Obama. I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if I made the poor choices that this author and her husband made and then expected to have my fellow tax payers bail me out for my selfishness. I know the attacks will come about me calling her selfish but choosing to keep an expensive house instead of health insurance is selfish and reckless. If her kids are still minors, she should really be investigated by child services for putting them at risk with he poor decisions.

ohioguy280: Let me get this straight. You blew off paying for health coverage, got sick and now your screwed. Why is this my problem? I pay 100% of my families health coverage. Why should I pay for yours?

joanne376: I’m one of those ‘luckier’ people that you disparage. I have a news update for you. I too would dearly love to park myself in a picturesque area of the country and run an arts organization, however in order to be able to do things like pay my mortgage and have health insurance, as well as save for retirement, I chose a business profession in an organization that offers a good health plan in a state with a more sensible cost of living. My conscious decision and hard work required to execute it, is luck? In what universe?

Mark Crawford: OH Boo Hoo. You made a choice to keep your house rather than move into an apartment and did so at the expense of others who now have to foot the bill.  You are in effect a self indulgant thief of other peoples money and should be ashamed of yourself.

The lack of compassion is stunning. Most of the negative commenters assume Dolomite Ward could have prevented her situation: her husband shouldn’t have started his own business, she shouldn’t work at a nonprofit, they should have sold their home. Yes, she and her husband discussed selling their house and chose not to. Sophiac3 takes her to task for being selfish, but that assumes Dolomite Ward would be able to sell her house, which, in this economy, is doubtful. And there’s no guarantee that if they’d been able to sell the house, it would have solved their problems. Many rental units are just as expensive as mortgages.

Others criticize her for working at a nonprofit and not an accounting firm, where apparently there are plenty of high-paying jobs just ripe for the taking. I’m not sure these people have followed that thinking to its logical end: If Dolomite Ward shouldn’t work at a nonprofit, who should? It’s generally the case that nonprofit employees make less than for-profit counterparts for a variety of reasons. Does that mean no one should work at a nonprofit?

Heifer International, Oxfam America, Doctors Without Borders, Habitat for Humanity, American Cancer Society, Planned Parenthood, AARP, the ACLU, amFAR, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Girls Incorporated, Girl Scouts, Goodwill, United Way, the YMCA — the list of nonprofits doing vital work is endless. But apparently the people who work for all of those organizations deserve whatever life throws at them because they chose to dedicate their life to a cause rather than a corporation.

I believe in personal responsibility, but there is only a certain amount of risk you can reasonably prepare for. Catastrophe is just around the corner for any one of us. The message on this editorial’s discussion board seemed to be “look out for No. 1.” Don’t care about your neighbors. Don’t care about your fellow Americans or fellow inhabitants of Earth. If your house is blown away by a tornado, tough; you should have known better than to build it there. If your family is running out of food, tough; you should have known to pick a recession-proof job. If your car is totaled in an accident, tough; you should have known to avoid that drunken driver. If you’re diagnosed with a chronic illness that prevents you from getting private insurance, tough; you should have known not to be born. It’s not my problem.

Well, I believe it is my problem. It’s our problem. It’s pure luck that we have been born American, and therefore even the most disadvantaged of us have more power, wealth and privilege than any other culture that has ever existed. I believe that comes with an obligation to repay as much as we can to those less fortunate, whether they be our countrymen or not. It lessens everything we believe to be good about America when 15 million children are living in poverty; when wages are stagnant and declining; when neighbors are going bankrupt and facing foreclosure; when millions of people have given up on finding a job; when our infrastructure is crumbling beneath us — and we do nothing about it.

We have the resources to fix our problems. There has never been an occasion in our history when we have failed to find a solution to a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. We built feats of architecture such as the Golden Gate Bridge, Hoover Dam, Mount Rushmore. We sent astronauts to the moon. We developed technology that allows people on the other side of the globe to read this post; to know, in real time, exactly what’s happening on another continent.

If we could do that, we can do this. We can pull together and say, “Enough. My family has access to food, housing, education and medical care, but I won’t be satisfied until every family has that same safety and security.”

We have the money and the ideas to come out of this recession greater than we were before.

Now we just need to find the will.

Why I volunteer for the president despite disagreeing with him

The reason why I support the president despite sometimes disagreeing with him should be obvious. There’s not a single person in my life I agree with 100 percent of the time. If you respond you do have someone like that in your life, please go grow a spine.

Off the top of my head, I can think of several areas where I disagree with the president: he doesn’t support same-sex marriage; he hasn’t closed Guantanamo Bay; he signed an executive order when the health care law was passed banning federal funding for abortion; his support of the EPA has been tepid; more undocumented workers have been deported under him than any other president (not something to be proud of); and he and his defense secretary are opposed to any cuts in defense spending despite the fact that makes up the majority of our budget.

However, his list of accomplishments is vast: he has appointed more women and minorities to positions of power than any other president, including two women to the Supreme Court; passed the most sweeping health care reform in generations; killed Osama bin Laden; passed a stimulus bill that prevented a depression; saved the auto industry; ended don’t ask, don’t tell; stopped defending the Defense of Marriage Act; made a video for the It Gets Better project; appointed former rival Hillary Clinton to secretary of state, where she’s had wild success and approval; improved the standing of the United States around the world; halted massive job loss and created new jobs; proposed the American Jobs Act to fix our aging infrastructure and project public sector jobs; and ended the global gag rule that prohibited U.S. aid to foreign family planning groups that even mentioned abortion to their clients.

Yet liberals who supported Obama in the 2008 election seem disillusioned this time around. Most of the people I talk with are planning to vote for the president again, but they’re not jumping in to volunteer for the campaign.

They’re disappointed for what boils down to two reasons: They thought Obama was more progressive than he really is, and they blame him because Washington is gridlocked.

First of all, I can’t think of a single issue where Obama has ever pledged a truly liberal stance, despite screaming from the right wing about how he’s a Marxist/communist/socialist. But because the United States got dragged so far to the right under George W. Bush, and even under Clinton, Obama looked like he was more progressive than he really is. He’s a centrist, and that’s not a bad thing. It’s a far sight better than what we had from 2000-2008.

Second, in our government, it takes three groups to get anything done: the Senate, the House and the White House. After the 2010 midterms, the Republicans took control of the House, and although the Democrats still have the Senate, they don’t have enough votes to pass bills without Republican support. And even if they did, they’d still run up against the wall of opposition in the House, where leaders are determined to get nothing done. They want the economy to do badly because they want Obama out of the White House. There’s only so much Obama can do without the approval of Congress. And he has bent over backward to compromise with Republicans and include them in discussions to move the country forward. They refuse.

I’m disappointed that more people who supported Obama in 2008 don’t understand the above points. Over the weekend I had a union organizer tell me that based on what he’s hearing, if there were a Democratic primary challenge, Obama would be in trouble. I wanted to beat my head against a wall. Obama is the smartest, most serious, most reasonable president we’ve had in a decade. And one of his best characteristics is that he’s open to criticism, feedback and new ideas.

I wasn’t surprised to read about friction in the early stages of his administration over the role of women in the West Wing. According to the Washington Post, female staffers felt shut out of discussions and disregarded to the point where it could qualify as a hostile workplace. Obama’s reaction? He finally sat down with the women to hear them out.

“Those tensions prompted Obama, urged on by senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, to elevate more women into senior White House positions, recognize them more during staff meetings and increase the female presence in the upper ranks of the reelection campaign. … The complaints seemed to subside over the last year, as officials have made a greater effort to promote women and the tight-knit inner circle has shifted to bring new advisers into the building.”

That, to me, is the work of a good leader. No, he’s not perfect. No one is. But despite the areas where I disagree with him, I truly believe he is a good man. I truly believe he has the best interest of all Americans at heart. That is why I have put so much time and effort into re-electing him. It’s why you should consider doing the same.

I went on vacation this year

You might not have known that; it wasn’t exactly headline news. I went camping with my sister and a couple of friends in Missouri. I visited my family for a few days and attended a block party in my cousin’s neighborhood. I spent plenty of money on gas, snacks, camping equipment, and a dinner out for my family.
 
Pretty all-American, right? I took the vacation days that are a benefit provided by my employer and put money into the economy. And I didn’t feel guilty about having a good time while doing so, even though members of my family are out of work or underemployed. Even though unemployment is at 9 percent. 
 
Republicans are having a lot of fun criticizing President Obama for doing the same thing I did: taking a vacation. Here are my responses to their most common talking points:
 
1. It “looks bad” Obama is on vacation while the country is in a recession and so many people are unemployed. However, economists think it will take years to bring unemployment below 8 percent. Is Obama not supposed to take another day off until the economy fully recovers? If Republicans are so concerned about out-of-work Americans, they should be busy crafting a jobs bill (one that doesn’t rely on tax cuts to the wealthy and corporations to create jobs) instead of attacking women’s health and weakening union regulations.
  
2. The Obamas are having fun on the taxpayers’ dime. The president and first lady can’t go anywhere without spending taxpayer money. They require security everywhere they go. How do we determine what destinations are acceptable and which aren’t? Put it to an opinion poll? It’s OK to vacation in the Rockies but not in Spain? They can go only within 100 miles of Washington, D.C.? I’m sure the Obamas would prefer to vacation just the four of them. It can’t be fun to have a huge entourage everywhere you go. It’s just part of the job description.
 
And consider:
 
1. Obama has taken only 61 vacation days so far, compared to 180 for Bush for the same amount of time. Remember that Bush was dealing with 9/11 and its aftermath in that period of time. Does that make him more or less entitled to three times as much vacation has Obama has taken? Obama has arguably the toughest job in the world. Why are we begrudging him time off with his family, especially since there’s no such thing as a president leaving his job entirely behind? Even while he’s in Martha’s Vineyard he’s getting updates and staying on top of breaking news developments. If Hurricane Irene devastates the East Coast this weekend, do you think he’ll say “I’m on vacation, Joe Biden can deal with it”? Another good point from this Star Tribune column is that even if Obama never took any vacation days, he wouldn’t be able to solve every problem that came across his desk.
 
2. Congress is in recess. That means — gasp — that Republicans are on vacation as well. Where’s the outrage about that? Moreover, what is Obama supposed to be doing when the Capitol is deserted? Obviously there are things Obama could be working on, but there will always be things he could be working on, and I’m sure he can work on some of them just as well from Massachusetts as he can from D.C.
 
3. There is no good time for a president to take a vacation. There will always be a conflict somewhere; turmoil on the other side of the world; people here and abroad who don’t have the luxury of food and water, let alone a vacation. Should he — should we — do without until everyone has the same standard of living?
 
4. I’m sure the president has people whose sole job is to determine how his actions play in public. He knows exactly how this “looks” to ordinary Americans, and apparently he doesn’t care. I can’t say I blame him.
 
I don’t think any president or elected official should get carte blanche when it comes to time off. If s/he sets a record for the number of days of vacation taken while in office, that’s a legitimate criticism for anyone. But everyone is entitled to take vacations. I want everyone to take vacations. I want my doctors and emergency responders and bosses and political officials to get time off to relax, recharge and refresh themselves so they are at their best when they do their jobs.
 
Including my president.

An open letter to John Boehner: I am the American people

This post is from a reader who is fed up with the political gridlock in Washington. She asked to remain anonymous.

Mr. Boehner,

You have often been quoted saying, “The American people have spoken” or “The American people have sent a message.” I don’t know those who have allegedly spoken, but “they” are not me.

Mr. Boehner, I am the American people.

I have been out of full-time work for three years. I am employed part-time and cannot find additional part-time employment. I wait my turn at the public library to conduct my job search. I have had only three interviews during the past three years.

I am single, over 50, and do not have health insurance. I was suddenly hospitalized, through the emergency room, shortly after losing my full-time job. I have accepted unemployment and housing assistance. I exhausted unemployment and COBRA subsidies benefits months ago. I don’t remember when I last saw a dentist.

I’ve stopped wearing contacts; upkeep costs too much. I need new glasses.

I cannot pay rent; I do not quality for any sort of assistance. I cannot pay ComEd, Nicor, or other bills. I cannot pay federal or state income tax. I do not overspend, unless medical bills are considered overspending. I have no retirement savings, I own no property.

Mr. Boehner, I am the American people.

I do not have cable, a working computer, or access to the Internet. I do not eat steak, rent videos, or dine out. I do not smoke or drink. I do not drive unless necessary, usually only to my part-time job. I do not have my hair cut. I do not have a text plan on my cell phone. I pay for a basic phone plan, in case, just in case, a potential employer calls.

I am college educated and have completed some post-graduate coursework.

I am no idiot.

Mr. Boehner, I am the American people.

I have pets, one of which was thrown away by someone else. They will eat before I do. I have participated in true grassroots action on behalf of school children and abused women. I have volunteered at free clinics for children and for the homeless. I have never donated to a political campaign. I have worked for years at polling places. I have no lobbyist.

Some of my neighbors are elderly. Some are dependent upon disability income. I worked on contingency planning with others to move food, children and animals if our electricity fails due to storm damage or delivery system overload. We sadly acknowledged that other Americans will die this summer due to capacity and service interruptions.

I have borrowed money from friends and family. I am not eligible for food stamps. I have no children, I am not eligible for family “aid.” I am not old enough for Social Security, which you apparently are planning to take away anyway. God has not “provided” — please tell your caucus.

I did not plan to live my life this way. I did not get up this morning and decide to “take advantage” of the government. I have done everything “right.” I am not a so-called “usurper.” I am tired. I do have a bit of pride left. Not much. But a little.

Mr. Boehner, I am the American people.

Mr. Boehner, please do not speak for the American people unless you know them. Again, Mr. Boehner —

I am the American people.