Public service announcement: “Obamacare” and the Affordable Care Act ARE THE SAME THING

President Abraham Lincoln is reported to have commented, in the agony of awaiting election results, “Well, it is the people’s business, – the election is in their hands. If they turn their backs to the fire and get scorched in the rear, they’ll find they have got to sit on the blister.”

We’re gonna be sitting on a lot of blisters.

Possibly among the biggest is the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, which is apparently NOT known to everyone as “Obamacare”, because some people seem to be under the impression that they are not one and the same.

For the record: they are one and the same.

This kind of ignorance is what we get when our candidates who have actual, readable policy positions which can be analyzed on their merits (as Hillary Clinton did) have to deal with a media which would rather give free press to a buffoon with no substantive policy positions (that would be Donald Trump).

It’s also the kind of ignorance we get when we permit one party to reframe the public discussion in such a way that the terms we use hide the actual meaning we intend. Republicans are fond of characterizing liberal speech as “Orwellian”, but then turn around and engage in exactly that sort of rebranding. Much of that is courtesy of Frank Luntz, a professional pollster, who, on at least one occasion, actually redefined “Orwellian” as a good thing. Most famously, Luntz gave us “death tax” instead of “estate tax”. He also gave us “climate change” in place of “global warming” (because it sounds less scary), “energy exploration” in place of “off-shore drilling”, “opportunity scholarships” in place of “school vouchers”, “tax relief” in place of “tax cuts”, “personalizing Social Security” in place of “privatizing Social Security”, and, perhaps most chillingly, “electronic intercepts” instead of “wiretapping” or “eavesdropping”. He encourages Republicans to say “liberal” instead of “progressive”, because it resonates with the idea of loose morals or profligate spending.

At least as long ago as 2009, Frank Luntz counseled Republicans to characterize health care reform in scary terms: “government takeover” instead of “health care reform”.

Government takeover? Today’s Republicans managed to eke out a win in the presidency and both houses of Congress and made repeal of the Affordable Care Act their first priority. If that’s not a “government takeover” of our healthcare system, I don’t know what is.

On the campaign trail, Trump promised to “repeal [Obamacare] and replace [it] with something terrific”.

It damn well better be “terrific”, because the Affordable Care Act, while imperfect, is better than what came before by actual measurement. For one thing, it requires coverage of people with pre-existing conditions. That’s important to several people I know who have chronic conditions which didn’t used to be covered, and now are, thanks to the Affordable Care Act.

Trump said that he was going to keep coverage for pre-existing conditions, because it was one of the ACA’s best points. BUT, apparently not. Let’s hear from Mike Pence:

“We will protect Americans with pre-existing conditions so that they are not charged more or denied coverage, just because they have been sick, so long as they have paid their premiums consistently,” he said.

But that’s not something ordinary people have complete control over, is it? If you’re fired from employment, or have to move unexpectedly, you may not be able to have continuous healthcare. Once you don’t, you’re in the high-risk pool for the long-term.

And there’s the flaw in healthcare, right there: pools. If you sell healthcare in a free market, then as a coverage provider you can’t make money in that market unless you charge more for people who need more. When you’re buying kitchenware, or a boat, that’s fine, because people can choose to economize. But it’s not possible to economize on healthcare by not having an expensive condition. I’m a cancer survivor, and I promise you, I would have economized by not having cancer. But that wasn’t an option.

About 60 million Americans have pre-existing conditions. That’s about 18% of the population. This is not a small problem.

Most Americans believe in meritocracy. Work hard and earn what you get. The implicit promise behind that belief is a reasonably level playing field. Well, when it comes to healthcare, the playing field is not level. A lot of your health is luck-of-the-draw. Some people get cancer. One accident I investigated, during my career, involved a woman who fell asleep behind the wheel and crossed over, taking a car head-on and breaking both of the other driver’s knees and hips, among other things. Let’s hope he was insured, because he’s going to need lifelong healthcare just for that, let alone the fact that he’s just as likely as anyone to draw the cancer card.

Where is the merit in that? Is there any possible way that he could have saved enough to pay for that roll of the dice, while doing the other things we expect of him, like paying on a mortgage and saving for his childrens’ college educations? That’s not meritocracy. That’s rouletteocracy.

How many times have you heard someone say that they hate their job, but they have to stay in it for their family’s healthcare? Conservatives say that they’re all about the entrepreneurial spirit. If our healthcare did not depend on our jobs, if we could know that our basic health was taken care of, so that we could take small risks instead of huge ones, they would see an explosion of entrepreneurs such as they have not dared to dream of.

Instead, they want us to make free-market decisions in circumstances which are famously opaque, where not even experts can get real costs on medical treatments, where parents with no medical training make medical decisions. What if your ten-year-old child falls and hurts their arm? Republican Bill Huizenga says you wait until the next day to take them to a doctor, in order to avoid a costly visit to the emergency department. But hey, don’t worry! Huizenga’s kid’s arm was just broken. Waiting didn’t hurt anyone, right? I mean, anyone besides the ten-year-old?

Republicans want people to make healthcare decisions they are not qualified to make in order to keep their costs down.

What if Huizenga didn’t have health insurance? Then his child would not be insured at all. Rouletteocracy again.

The system we have is ridiculous. We are the wealthiest society in the history of our species, and yet, we do not ensure healthcare for our society’s children. The Affordable Care Act improved our system somewhat. The Republicans are planning to delete it.

Enough of this shame.

We should be improving this system, not dismantling it. Call your representatives and tell them that. Tell them to cover all children, whose healthcare should not depend on the employment status of their parents. Tell them to decouple healthcare from employment.

Grace

How to Contact Your Federal Government

Hello, all!

When you want your government to hear your voice, there are more effective ways and less effective ways. This is a reference document which I will be linking to when it’s time to make your voice heard.

Most effective: Call the elected representatives local office and speak to a staffer, in person. For our federal representatives, the local office is the office located in the state where they were elected.

To find your representative in the House of Representatives, click here. You can enter your ZIP Code and a page will pop up with a link to your representative’s website. Somewhere on that page will be a link to “Offices”, and you will find a local office number there.

To find your Senator, click here. Then search on your state abbreviation. You have two Senators, and they both represent your entire state. Click on their name, and it will take you to their website. Somewhere on that page will be a link to “Offices”, and you will find a local office number there.

The White House line for public comment is (202) 456-1111.

When you call, have a script. Tell them who you are. If you’re calling a Representative, tell them the town you live in, so that they know that they represent you. If you’re calling a Senator, tell them the town and state you live in, so that they know that you live in their state, and so that they picture roughly where, and for verisimilitude. Anyone can claim to be from a state. Few people who are lying will pick a town.

Be polite. You want them to listen.

“Hello. My name is {your name}. I live in {location}. I am calling to urge {Title, Name} to {support or oppose} {specific issue}.” Then give ONE reason why you care so much that you’re calling: “This legislation is going to make it impossible for people like me, who have had cancer, to get health coverage.” Or whatever.

They will reply. As long as the conversation stays relevant, stay polite and keep talking. Actual transmission of detail is secondary. Your primary goal is to grab their attention. You want that staffer to say to their boss, “Wow! The phones have been OFF THE HOOK with people hating on this legislation! I’m exhausted and can’t get anything else done!”

In other words, be polite, be relevant, and be unignorable.


Basically ineffective: Twitter, Facebook, email. Staffers don’t have time to look at the likes or read the comments.

Slightly more effective: a physical letter, mailed via the US Postal Service. They tally them, batch them, and reply with form letters. That times time and expense.


Does all of this favor the verbally able and disempower people who work best in print? Yes. It’s not fair. It’s just what works. I’m a writer; I feel your pain. But it’s what works. That’s why you write a bit of script on a napkin before you call. There’s a good writeup on how to do this contacting if you have social anxiety here.


This series of tweets from a former congressional staffer, Emily Ellsworth, went viral, and explains pretty well. I excerpt it here, for the day when the link is no more.

I worked for Congress for 6 years, and here’s what I learned about how they listen to constituents. First, tweeting or writing on Facebook is largely ineffective. I never looked at those comments except to remove the harassing ones. Second, writing a letter to the district office (state) is better than sending an email or writing a letter to DC.

But, the most effective thing is to actually call them on the phone. At their district (state) office. They have to talk to you there. [emphasis added]

We repped half a million people, it was impossible to read and respond personally to all letters. Impossible. This was something in particular that I cared about as a staffer and worked very hard on, but the sheer volume of emails is overwhelming. So, we batched them with computer algorithms and sent out form letters based on topic and position. Regardless of method received.

But, phone calls! That was a thing that shook up our office from time. One time, a radio host gave out our district office phone # on air. He was against our immigration policy and told our constituents to call. And they did. All. Day. Long. All I did all day was answer phones.

It was exhausting and you can bet my bosses heard about it. We had discussions because of that call to action.

If we started getting a pattern of calls, I called up our DC office and asked if they were getting the same calls and we talked.

In other words, use a contact method which is not ignorable. No one has to read an email or a Facebook message. But someone has to answer the phone.

But that just gets you a staffer. What if you want to talk to the actual elected representative?

If you want to talk to your rep, show up at town hall meetings. Get a huge group that they can’t ignore. Pack that place and ask questions.

We held town halls consistently that fewer than 50 people showed up for. And it was always the same people. So, shake it up.

If you run an advocacy group, invite local staffers to show up to your events. Let them talk to people you work with and set up meetings.

As always, please be kind but firm with those staffers. They will listen and talk to you. I always, always did. …if the staff knows you, when they have a question about a piece of legislation or amendment, [you] will be the one [they] call.

Don’t waste your time. Make them listen.

Grace

URGENT: Call Congress on Congressional Ethics Oversight

Update, 13:40:

REPUBLICANS BACK DOWN. Rachel Maddow reports.


URGENT. CONGRESSIONAL ETHICS VOTE THIS AFTERNOON.

“We’re from the Government. We’re here to help.”

Those words are a cliché of chilling authoritarianism precisely because we don’t trust the government with oversight of their own actions. They are accountable to us, not to themselves.

Well, now the Republicans would like the body which judges the ethics of members of the House of Representatives to be accountable to … The House of Representatives.

As reported over at Politico:

In one of their first moves of the new Congress, House Republicans have voted to gut their own independent ethics watchdog — a huge blow to cheerleaders of congressional oversight and one that dismantles major reforms adopted after the Jack Abramoff scandal.

Monday’s effort was led, in part, by lawmakers who have come under investigation in recent years.

Despite a warning from Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), House Republicans adopted a proposal by Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) to put the Office of Congressional Ethics under the jurisdiction of the House Ethics Committee.

The office currently has free rein, enabling investigators to pursue allegations and then recommend further action to the House Ethics Committee as they see fit.

Now, the office would be under the thumb of lawmakers themselves.

The vote is this afternoon. Call your Representative.

Grace

ETA: I just called my representative, Ann McLane Kuster, her Concord office: (603) 226-1002. “Hello. I am calling to urge Congresswoman Kuster to keep the Office of Congressional Ethics independent, and NOT to put it under the jurisdiction of the House Ethics Committee.”

Congresswoman Kuster’s staffer told me that Congresswoman Kuster is advocating against this measure, and will vote against it when it comes to the floor for a vote.

The actual call took 1 minute and 48 seconds.

You can find your Congressional representative here. It is more effective if you CALL (rather than e-mail or like on Facebook or text). If you call at their state office, not their Washington office, they have to take your call, and it has more impact.

Make your voice heard!

Discrimination: Now Available With Consequences

So, in the previous post, I suggested that anti-LGBT forces might think twice about enacting bills like the infamous HB 2, which probably made the difference in the gubernatorial election in North Carolina.

According to Rewire, it looks like I was right.

“North Carolina’s governor was just voted out of office because of his support for a discriminatory law that took an immediate and devastating toll on his state’s economy,” McTighe said. “It’s not surprising that business leaders and elected officials from across Texas are sounding some early alarm bells over Dan Patrick’s fixation on similar legislation.”

What’s this world coming to? When it became socially unacceptable to attack LGB people, we still had T people to slap around, but now it’s getting so that when you discriminate openly against them, there are sometimes consequences!

Ah, well. There’s still covert discrimination. We’ll always have that.

/sarcasm

But seriously, a big, heartfelt “thank you” to all the cis allies who made that happen. Trans people are not exactly an economic powerhouse, but cis people who cared about targeted discrimination made all the difference in North Carolina, and that difference is now rippling.

Grace

Dispatches from the Bathrooms (unfortunately)

Some of you may be familiar with HB 2, though not by name. Here are some links. Brief summary: among other things, HB 2 required that people use the public bathroom designated for the gender shown on their birth certificate.

Legally, for cis folks this is a distinction without a difference. For many trans folks, it can make participation in the public sphere very difficult. Some states don’t permit anyone to change their birth certificate at all, which means that people born in those states must out themselves every time they apply for a job. Some states which technically permit you to update your gender marker issue an amended certificate, so that the original data is still visible (because that won’t cause you any problems when you try to get a job). Many states require proof of genital surgery before permitting you to alter your gender marker, but many trans people don’t get genital surgery, because it’s expensive, can be medically contraindicated for unrelated medical reasons like heart conditions, because there are no good surgical options for their particular circumstances, or because they don’t effing WANT to and it’s nobody’s business but theirs. Some states issue a brand new certificate upon a doctor’s assurance that someone has undergone irreversible medical treatment (and thank Heaven my mother happened to be standing in California when her labor started) BUT the paperwork and fees are beyond the means of trans people who are having trouble finding dinner, let alone court filing fees.

So as trivial as it sounds, getting an updated birth certificate can be impossible, or several flavors of difficult.

(Which is, doubtless, the whole point. I doubt that the Republican legislature which passed this monstrosity knew that birth certificates could sometimes be amended. They’ve figured it out, by now, because we’re starting to see bathroom legislation proposed which requires that you go to the bathroom on your original birth certificate, or which references chromosomes. Sucks to be one of the small-but-extant number of cis folks whose birth record clerk made a typo; if they have their way you’ll never be able to get that thing fixed. (But it won’t matter, for you, because you’ll be able to get a doctor’s letter attesting that you have always been the gender you were assigned, paperwork notwithstanding, and then you’ll be able to get hired by the same folks who just wouldn’t be comfortable shaking hands with a trans person.))

Laws like HB 2 can also, colaterally, make participation in the public sphere uncomfortable for cis women, who might find that these men are required to share a restroom with them. Finally, cis men might be uncomfortable with the notion of opening the door to the toilet stall to find these women trying to scoot in safety to a toilet. (History suggests, however, that it is the trans women who would likely suffer, as a significant minority of cis folks consider them outside the law when it comes to assault, including some elected legislators.)

Apart from being a disaster on a rights level, HB 2 was shoddily written and hastily passed at the direction of North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory, so that there would be no opportunity for public comment. And then, when people started to react with outrage, as Fortune 500 companies decided to put call centers and other facilities elsewhere, as the NCAA moved games out-of-state, McCrory doubled down, and kept doing it, until he found himself in a race for re-election against his own Attorney General, Roy Cooper.

It was a tight race. There was some recounting.

But McCrory lost by several thousand votes. He was the only incumbent governor in this year’s election to lose his seat. Maybe others will think twice before passing such legislation. Certainly Republican South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard thought so when he vetoed a similar bill in his state this year (good brief news video at that link, by the way).

So North Carolina, as a state, and former Governor Pat McCrory, as a politician, have paid a heavy price to pass a discriminatory bill which was so shoddily-written that it didn’t even have an enforcement provision.

The 2016 election was a disaster overall, but there’s a point of light for you.

North Carolina experienced quite the negative consequence to solve a problem which didn’t exist. In states which have protections for trans people in place, there have been no problems, at least not for cis people.

Chief Anthony Colarusso, of Dover PD in New Hampshire, put it this way:

As Chief of the Dover Police Department and a member of law enforcement for over 31 years, I know our communities are safer when everyone is treated fairly and equally under the law and that includes transgender people. This group is actually disproportionately targeted for harassment and assault. However, in places where legal protections are in place, rates of violence against transgender individuals go down with no uptick in public safety incidents. Transgender equality and equal treatment for all is ultimately about building stronger communities for everyone.

Here in New Hampshire, the Democrats won the governor’s office, but the Republicans won both the House and the Senate. I expressed some hope, in the post before this, that we might see a nondiscrimination bill in this state. Alas, I’m told by an experienced politician that they are not sure whether they could succeed, and by filing, they might actually make matters worse. A Republican House and Senate could modify the legislation to something worse than what we have right now (which is nothing). So we may end up waiting for that, especially given the climate on the national scene, where Vice President-Elect Pence is appointing [1], as Trump’s top domestic policy advisor, Ken Blackwell, a senior fellow with the Family Research Council, which is an actual hate group.

Meanwhile, the State of Virginia has decided to go to the mat on this issue via the courts. Gavin Grimm is an ordinary 17-year-old boy who is also trans, and his school is willing to go to the Supreme Court of the United States to keep him in the girls’ bathroom. The case will be heard in June of this year. Recent case law is very much on the side of trans people, but of course the Supreme Court is not bound by case law any more than they choose to be. The decision could be narrow, or very broad. And, it could go either way. For trans people, and trans children, and our participation in public schools, this could be our Brown v. Board of Education, or it could be our Plessy v. Ferguson. If it’s the latter, then I might very well be dead before I’m allowed to use the women’s room in most of the landmass of my country; it took the court 58 years after Plessy v. Ferguson to set the matter right.

So this is an extremely important case for Americans who are trans, and if decided broadly, could also establish powerful precedent on workplace segregation of sexes generally.

Lambda Legal is among the organizations filing amicus briefs with the Supreme Court. An “amicus brief” is an advisory filing by someone who is not directly party to the case, but who has an interest in the outcome. Lambda Legal is looking for police officers willing to sign on to this brief. They believe a large signing by officers would be an eye-opener for the justices on our Supreme Court. I’ve signed it. If you are an officer willing to stand on the side of increased public safety, I urge you to sign it. If you know such an officer, I urge you to urge them to sign it.

In this instance, the voices of cisgender allies would be especially powerful. It’s easy to discount my voice; I have a vested interest in this outcome. But cisgender allies benefit from a presumption of impartiality. You will be heard. People will give your words greater weight. Please: stand up and assert what they know, that trans women and trans girls are not a threat in the women’s room, and that trans men and trans boys are not a threat in the men’s room.

I’ve sent an e-mail to Chief Colarusso, in Dover. Let’s support the serving officers who are getting on the right side of this issue. They don’t have to be taking a stand on rights as a political issue. They can take a stand on the issue as a matter of public safety, the protection of which is their sworn duty.

Grace

[1] It has become clear to me that we have actually elected Mike Pence as our functional president. Trump will be a figurehead, easily duped and easily distracted away to Twitter, while Pence puts together the most regressive government of my lifetime. Does Trump scare you? As an LGBT person, I’m far more scared of Pence, who is an advocate for conversion therapy, also known as “reparative therapy”, a therapy practiced upon gay and trans adults and children, which has been so discredited that the American Psychological Association has issued a resolution against it (at least for gay people; trans people, apparently, might still be nuts).

Nondiscrimination Bill Coming in NH

A few days ago, a friend of mine told me that a legislator was introducing a nondiscrimination bill in New Hampshire. Ed Butler was involved in the last attempt to get a trans-inclusive nondiscrimination bill in New Hampshire, back in 2009. At that time, I was still closeted, and from the closet all I could do was watch from the sidelines as Republican opponents to the bill dubbed it a “Bathroom Bill” and convinced the relevant Senate subcommittee to unanimously vote it “Inexpedient to Legislate”.[1] I can tell you that to me, at the time, it felt like a kick in the teeth from my fellow Granite Staters. It helped delay my own transition. When I finally did transition, I had to assemble a host of legal decisions to make it clear that I was probably protected, legally. If this law had been in place, it would have been certain that I was legally protected. I could simply have pointed to it.

This new bill is going to include all public accommodations, including locker rooms and bathrooms, thereby avoiding the mistake they made in Massachusetts. In Massachusetts, in order to get an LGBt bill, they gave up locker rooms and bathrooms for trans people; LGB people were protected everywhere, but t people were protected everywhere except locker rooms and bathrooms. That necessitated a separate and harder fight for full inclusion in Massachusetts, a fight which is going on right now. Massachusetts finally passed a bill including bathrooms and locker rooms, but opponents have succeeded in collecting enough signatures to force a repeal of the new law onto the ballot as a ballot measure. So, we’ll see what happens in 2018.

New Hampshire now has the opportunity to do better.

So, I put Ed’s name into Google, together with “NH”, and came up with his official state house page, which had his e-mail on it. Then I sent him an e-mail. I asked him if it was true that he was sponsoring a nondiscrimination bill. I identified myself as a trans woman. He replied, asking if I was the same person featured in in this news article.

I replied, told him that I was, and told him that I was a decent public speaker and had been doing educational speaking. He asked if he could pass my information along to the folks at Freedom NH.

I told him he could.

We’ll see what happens.

So, today’s ATIP: network with people, find out what’s in the planning stages, and contact the people involved with information on what skills or resources you can bring to the effort.

Grace

[1] This is an example of how language changes. Republicans used to dub these bills “bathroom bills”, in an apparent effort to trivialize them, or evoke unpleasant imagery. And it worked. Just seven years later, when Republicans pass asinine fear-fodder like HB 2 in North Carolina, we do the same thing to them. The presumption is swinging, even in the Deep South.

This is Different. Take it Personally.

In the immediate wake of the 2016 US presidential election, a friend of mine reached out to me.  She said, “I’m a straight, white, cis woman who owns a minivan,” and that if we needed it, anytime in the next four years, she could get me and my family across the Canadian border.

That’s new.

Never before has an American election prompted someone to tell me that they will be an Underground Railroad for my family.

This situation, in our country — this is different.

I’m a woman, and trans, and a lesbian.  I’m also white, and for a lot of my life I passed as a cis man, but now that I’ve transitioned and been written up in the local paper, pretty much everyone knows that I’m a woman, and trans, and a lesbian.  The second two make me a target of opportunity for social conservatives, and the first of course means that I’m at risk should I ever find myself within reach of Donald Trump.  Or, you know, existing during a Trump administration.

As a police officer, I was accustomed to being the one protecting my community.  Now, a good friend was pointing out that in the coming years, there were crosshairs on me and mine.  And she was doing it in the most concrete way possible:  by telling me what she could do for us, if we needed it.

It was sobering.  It was also inspiring.  That’s concrete action.

In the days which followed, I also reached out to friends and family.  I started with LGBT people.  A lot of them were in shock that such a person as Trump could possibly have been elected.  But as we recovered from the shock, we all started asking, “What next?  What can I do?”  One friend (a different straight, white, cis woman) wanted to know how to take effective steps, and wanted advice on how.  I struggled to give her advice.  She is comparatively wealthy, and so I suggested that she donate to the Transgender Legal Defense Fund, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the American Civil Liberties Union, and/or GLAAD.

But she wanted more, and I didn’t blame her.  I also wanted more, and I also didn’t know how.  I had just retired from a 21-year career as a police officer, a career when I seldom expressed a political opinion while in uniform.  People under investigation and people in custody are often terribly vulnerable to abuse, and in my opinion a good officer makes it clear that she operates in accordance with the law and a high standard of personal behavior, which includes demonstrating that your political opinions will not interfere with the correct performance of your duties.  Other officers can and do disagree, but that’s how I did my duty.

Law enforcement is a peculiar career.  Officers occupy a unique niche in our society, being the only people empowered to arrest other people.  People often guard their behavior around officers, in a way somewhat similar to how they guard their behavior around clergy.  Like clergy, an officer in her community is never really completely off-duty.  She always represents her department, her profession, and the might and power of the State which has empowered her.  So even off-duty, I forbore to express my political opinions publicly.

I certainly had political opinions, and I certainly voted in every election.  I just tended to discuss them only sometimes, and mainly with friends.  I did not, for instance, write letters to the editor.

Also, as an officer, your work can follow you home, in the form of homicidal people you have arrested.  So officers generally have unlisted phone numbers, and are often publicly cagey about family details like where they live, or what invisible minority groups they belong to.

So I don’t have much practice being an activist for the policies I believe in.  Neither do many of my friends.

Well, we just got creamed at the polls, and we better get our act together before we try to limit the damage at the polls in 2018 and change course completely in 2020.

There’s also work to be done day-to-day, on the ground.  Leaving aside whom we just elected, and whom he is appointing to his cabinet posts, his behavior has emboldened people to do things like this.  When I told the story about my minivan-owning friend to another friend, who is Jewish, she shook her head in disbelief.  Well, that’s a car with “Tranny die”, “Trump” and a swastika spray-painted on it.

White supremacists are speaking up.  People who align themselves with the Alt Right are unironically adopting language used historically by actual Nazis, like “Lügenpresse”.  People meeting in our nation’s Capitol are shouting “Hail Victory!” while giving a Nazi salute, which they would prefer that we all think of as a “Roman” salute.

First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak out for me.
–Pastor Martin Niemöller

It’s a powerful poem, so widely-known as to be a cliché.  Seth Chalmer’s father put it more directly, and I named this blog in an homage to a lesson he taught to his son:

I came home from middle school and mentioned that one of the few black kids on the playground got picked on that day.  I’d even heard the N-word for the first time.  Dad asked if I told a teacher, and I said no, I was just glad they weren’t picking on me.  “No,” he said.  And his voice was soft; this was different.  … [He said,] “Whenever you hear ‘nigger,’ hear ‘dirty Jew.’  Whenever you hear ‘spic,’ or ‘fag,’ or ‘dyke,’ hear ‘dirty Jew.’  And take it personally.”
–Seth Chalmer

One of my favorite memes, since the election, is this one:  “First they came for the Muslims, and we said, ‘Not this time, motherfucker.’”

We better learn to be activists.  If we fail to do so, there is a real risk that we will see, within our country, for the first time, actual fascism, actual oligarchy, actual totalitarian rule.

If you think that’s hyperbole, don’t believe me.  I’m no historian, and I’ve never lived in a totalitarian state.  Believe someone who has lived under totalitarian rule.  Believe a professor whose specialty is Eastern Europe, whose article on the topic ran in the Dallas Morning News, of all places.  (When was the last time you saw such a piece in a mainstream newspaper, let alone in a mainstream paper in Texas?!)

It really limits your actions when you have to be cagey about your home address, or your beliefs.  Now that I’m no longer serving my community as an officer, I can serve as an activist.  I’m not going to be cagey about who I am, or what my opinions are, or what invisible minority groups I belong to.  People who have studied fascist states far more than I have tell me that self-censorship in the face of intimidation is key, for the fascists.  Once that becomes widespread, the war is effectively lost.

So, everyone, if you haven’t already, speak and act as publicly as possible, where and when you are able.  When necessary, get in people’s faces.  Do it safely when possible, but don’t trade short-term safety for long-term ruin.

This is my real name.  These are my opinions.  This blog is going to be two things:  an accounting of what I have done, personally, to help my country be a progressive, pluralistic society where everyone’s rights are respected, and a resource for people who are looking for things they can do, and ways to see our way more clearly.

This will not clog your Inbox; I will post no more than once a day, and no less than once a week.

We will start with comments, and we’ll see how those go.  A moderation policy will follow in a bit.

I hope this helps.

Grace