Archive for progressive living

Waging a war for women

Me, speaking at last night's Bitter Pill rally. We all wore these silly pillbox hats, but we are very serious about protecting women's rights.

Me, speaking at last night’s Bitter Pill rally. We all wore these silly pillbox hats, but we are very serious about protecting women’s rights.

Last night, I spoke at a rally for women’s rights. It was sponsored by the National Organization for Women, which I re-joined the day of the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decision. It is time again for feminism.

When I was 18, I got engaged and went to the doctor for a prescription for the pill. He couldn’t give it to me unless it was within two months of my wedding.

It wasn’t his choice. In 1971, doctors in Massachusetts were forbidden by law to prescribe any contraception to unmarried women. It wasn’t against the law for women; it was illegal for doctors, since women weren’t to be trusted making those kinds of decisions about our own bodies.

Young women today don’t remember this and so were pretty much absent from yesterday’s rally.

It’s all done under the guise of protecting innocent babies, but it’s really about pushing women back under the thumbs of men. If we can’t control our own bodies, we can’t control much else about our lives.

Young women today don’t remember that women could be fired just for getting married. They don’t remember young women dying in desperate attempts at abortions after they were denied contraception.

As recently as the 1980s, insurance companies refused to cover contraception for women. I went to pick up an prescription for the Pill for medical purposes and the pharmacist told me I needed a note from my doctor. I waved the prescription and said, “This is a note from my doctor. This is hormone therapy and I expect it to be filled now.”

Well, the insurance company didn’t pay for contraception, so I would need a note from your doctor”

I started waving the prescription again when a man who had been standing nearby stepped up.

“Why is my testosterone replacement therapy not questioned?” he asked. “That’s just wrong. If I can get hormone therapy without question, she should be able to as well.”

He wasn’t an attorney, but his logic seemed frightening enough that the pharmacist called the insurance company and informed them he would fill prescriptions for hormones for everyone with no questions asked, and unless they wanted to fight an expensive lawsuit, they would pay.

Since lawsuits were working their way through the courts already, the insurance company agreed to fill my prescriptions without question.

Now the Hobby Lobby decision makes this same scenario possible. I can’t believe I still have to fight for this.

A young woman recently said to me, “If she opens her legs she should be ready to live with the consequences.”

Why is it acceptable for a young man to “sow his wold oats,” but not a woman? Where the hell is he supposed to sow those oats if women can’t have sex? And why isn’t he forced to suffer the consequences? Why isn’t he shamed?

I did teach my sons that sex was for creating babies and if they weren’t ready to parent, they weren’t ready for sex. I knew, however, that it was highly unlikely they would wait to have sex, so I taught them about contraception. Abstinence is the only foolproof method, and the Pill is a pretty close second. But I stressed again and again that they were as responsible for any consequences as their partners.

Secondly, when I was a young woman, it was legal for a man to forcibly rape his wife. If she wound up pregnant, that was supposed to be a blessing from God.

A woman could be forced to bring a new life into a violent home where its life would be endangered by an abusive father. A son would be likely to follow in his father’s footsteps and become abusive; a daughter would be likely to marry an abusive man.

But that didn’t matter to the white men in power; it still doesn’t.

I don’t remember the struggle for the right to vote; my grandmother’s generation fought that battle. But I remember enough about women’s struggle for equality to know we’re losing our precious rights, and I can’t sit still for that.

I thought we won these battles back in the 1960s and 70s, but our right to control our bodies is slipping away from us and we have to stand up and fight again.

We need young women in the fight, though. They take it for granted that they can get contraception, that they can go to a woman’s clinic for checkups and prescriptions. Women’s clinics are closing across the country as powerful old men claim they’re nothing more than abortion factories.

In truth, these clinics provide affordable care for millions of women. Until every state in the nation has expanded Medicaid, these clinics are the only access to care that low-income women have.

More than 85 percent of he services provided by women’s clinics have nothing to do with abortion, but women going in for checkups, contraception and cancer screenings are subjected to verbal, emotional and physical abuse. Even women seeking abortions deserve the respect of making this horrible decision without being screamed at, spit upon and hit.

If this abuse really was about the babies, there would be more help for women and children.

If you only support the fetus, you are not pro-life. You are anti-woman, and that is not acceptable.

We women are onto the effort to subjugate us again, and we’re not going. We will fight, and we will win.


Same old dangerous rhetoric

If you don’t know history, you might think Rep. Louie Gohmert was just spewing harmless crap on Wednesday when he accused immigrants of coming into this country as sexual predators looking for white women to ravish.

While he was spewing crap, it was the same crap that white people spewed as an excuse to torture and kill innocent African-American men on lynching trees and lamp posts from the 1880 to the 1940s in this country.

More than 5,000 African-Americans were slaughtered during this killing spree, very often falsely accused of raping — or wanting to rape — white women.

Emmett Till before and after he was "punished" for speaking to a white woman in Jim Crow Mississippi.

Emmett Till before and after he was “punished” for speaking to a white woman in Jim Crow Mississippi.

On Aug. 24, 1955, 14-year-old Emmett Till was visiting relatives in Money, Miss. He was from Chicago, so he was unfamiliar withe he rules black men and boys were forced to live under in the Jim Crow South.

He and some cousins went into a store to buy some gum after a long day picking cotton, and it is believed Till had the audacity to flirt with or whistle at the store owner’s wife. No one knows for certain what the offense was, but it was punishable by death.

Three days later, a group of angry white men went to the house where young Emmett was staying, dragged him out and drove away with him.

He was beaten beyond recognition, shot in the head, tied with barbed wire and thrown in the Tallahatchie River. When his body was pulled out of the river three days later, the only way his relatives could identify him was by the signet ring his mother had given him before he left Chicago.

The Rev. James Cone, in his book The Cross and the Lynching Tree,”  writes at length about the fear instilled in African-Americans by the lynching tree. You didn’t have to be related to anyone who was lynched, you only had to know how people were dragged from their homes, tortured — beaten, castrated, raised and lowered over a fire to prolong their suffering and then, finally, killed.

White people came out by the thousands to watch the terror because it was entertainment to see another human being tortured and killed. They took body parts as souvenirs. They had their pictures taken next to the corpse as it hung from the lynching tree. They bought post cards and sent them to family and friends.

Politicians ignored the horrors — in fact, some took part in the carnage. Still, the description of the perpetrators was always “persons unknown.”

The excuse more often than not was that black men were sexual predators and the whites were “protecting” their women.

So here, Rep. Gohmert accuses the president — an African-American man — of not protecting women from Latino men, using the same rhetoric that was used as an excuse for the terrorizing of African-Americans for generations.

Gohmert deserves to be driven out of Washington. He should be forced to hear the stories of people who were lynched, be forced to see the photos of Emmett Till’s mutilated body. And there are photos because Till’s mother insisted on an open casket so the world could see what had been done to her precious son.

This is not idle chatter Gohmert is spewing; it is terrorist rhetoric. He is deliberately inciting fear and anger and promoting the same thing that kept African-Americans subjugated in fear for 400 years in America.

I don’t support the death penalty for anyone, not even for hate-filled people like Gohmert. However, we must call him out on this. I planned to send him a lengthy e-mail, but he only accepts e-mails from his Texas First District constituents.

Gohmert is a coward in the first degree, and we need to let him know that’s what we think.

You can message him on Facebook at

Oh, and take a look at the photo on the page of Louie with an African-American child. Apparently, he is completely unaware of the irony.





This is not about religion


I have seen a number of posts today on Facebook, claiming the Hobby Lobby decision is a victory for religious freedom. Actually, it’s not.

Although the owners of Hobby Lobby say they have religious objections to certain kinds of contraception, the company invests in corporations that manufacture the very kinds of birth control they claim to oppose, which reeks of hypocrisy.

This is about having the power to control other people, in this case, women.

Men can still have drugs for chemically induced erections, they can have penile pumps and they can have vasectomies. But women can’t have the contraception method of their choice.

It doesn’t matter that I may not share their beliefs; I have to live by them anyway. That’s what the separation of church and state was all about.

We know that if Muslims had brought this case it never would have been heard by the Supreme Court. Let’s not pretend it would be any other way.

If you want to talk about Bible, let’s do. I was raised in a church at least as far-right-wing as these folks.

We didn’t go to dances; we didn’t go to R-rated movies. We didn’t try to have them banned, we just didn’t go. If we didn’t like what was on TV, we watched something else or turned it off.

Would they have liked to control everything? Sure, but back then, they knew they couldn’t. Now they can.

So-called Christians have gotten bolder in their quest to impose their religion on the rest of us because they made a pact with Republicans, who gave them power in exchange for voting against their own best interests. Now they believe they’re persecuted if everyone isn’t forced to live by their beliefs.

I rejected the misogynistic, racist beliefs promoted by the church I was raised in when I was a teenager, and I don’t want to live by them today.

Jesus once was asked why anyone should pay taxes. He asked the person to show him a coin.

“Whose likeness is on that coin?” he asked.

“Caesar,” was the reply.

“Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s,” he said.

In other words, government is not your religion. To follow God, you must be the one following and you don’t have the right to force others to practice your beliefs any more than they have the right to impose theirs on you. Government and God are two separate entities. If it wasn’t OK for the Romans to force their beliefs on and persecute Christians, it isn’t OK for Christians to do that to others.

This is about not trusting women to make our own choices about health care. To them, it’s about original sin. See, they believe Eve committed the first sin and therefore no woman can be trusted. Women are to be controlled at all times, in every way. If they have sex, they deserve to get pregnant.

That’s why it’s OK for men to have Viagra and penile implants. That’s why women so often are blamed for rape and domestic abuse. We were the original sinners in their eyes, so it’s always our fault when men abuse them. He’s only asserting his natural authority, after all.

Think about the first two questions that come to mind when a woman is raped: Where was she? What was she wearing?

If you think it’s anything less than this, I think you’re wrong. I grew up among people who thought like this, and I heard their “logic” for my entire childhood and adolescence.

I have re-joined the National Organization for Women. I will join Emily’s List.

I thought women won these battles two generations ago, but I see the fight isn’t over yet.


If only their pants would catch on fire

boweI’m a bit confused about the rhetoric from the right lately. A few months ago, the president was un-American for leaving Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in a prison in Afghanistan because “we don’t leave anyone behind.”

So, the president got him out and now he should be impeached for doing so, even though Richard Nixon got John McCain out of a Vietnamese prison the same way.

Until last week, the right was screaming that we needed to bring the Benghazi mastermind to justice, so when we capture him, they scream it was done to benefit Hillary Clinton’s book tour.

George Bush and company started an illegal war in Iraq and now that the result is a massive disruption, the right criticizes Obama for not going back in and risking more American lives for Bush’s folly.

The right blames President Obama for the fiasco at the VA, but it was Bush who started two wars with no plan to pay for them and then no way to care for the soldiers who were sent into combat four, five and six times.

Yes, Obama knew about the mess when he came into office, but he was thwarted by the GOP every time he asked for more money for the VA.

He was thwarted when he asked for more money to defend embassies and other diplomatic outposts around the world and then criticized when one of those outposts — in Benghazi, Libya — was attacked and four Americans were killed.

It’s obvious this president can do nothing to please the right wing, even when he meets their demands.

A couple weeks ago, a conservative legislator accused the Moral Mondays protesters of being hypocritical because we didn’t have these demonstrations when the Democrats were in power.

Not true, I told him. The NC NAACP has been doing HKonJ demonstrations in Raleigh every February since 2007. The difference was that the Democrats would meet with us and talk to us and listen to our concerns. The leadership now runs away from us.

Yes, my legislator, Tim Moffitt, will meet with me and treat me with respect, but the leadership is so arrogant, they refuse to talk to anyone who doesn’t agree with them. Then they lie about it, claiming we’re the ones who won’t sit down and talk.

Seriously, why don’t their pants really catch on fire?

Special status?

george will

George Will thinks that women who have been the victims of sexual violence have a special status and that we embrace it.

I would hardly classify the shame and guilt I experienced after being molested by a family member special. More than a half century later, I still live with it.

Embrace it? I spit on it. It took me years and some disastrous relationships to learn to function in a healthy relationship because of what happened to me as a child.

More often that not, victims of childhood sexual violence grow up to become victims of adult sexual violence. Because the victim of this crime is told by society to be ashamed, to feel unworthy of respect.

Things you think protect us actually do us more damage. Why shouldn’t my name be used? If I was beaten with a baseball bat, people wouldn’t even ask if I wanted my name withheld. But because I was the victim of sexual violence, I should feel ashamed to have my name used in public.

The inference is that I somehow caused my relative to molest me. Perhaps I cast a sultry 3-year-old glance in his direction. Maybe it was the short dresses I wore or the fact that I had the audacity to be alone in a room with him.

I can still see my chubby little fingers closing around the quarter he gave me — hush money. I can still remember feeling dirty and knowing I would be punished if I said anything. The abuse continued for years.

I didn’t say anything to anyone until I was in my 30s. My sister challenged me. He had tried it with her too, but she got away from him. She was saucy enough to tell his secret; I was not.

Once, a year or so after our conversation, my sister asked why I was being so open about it.

“Maybe you shouldn’t tell people,” she said.

I’ve spent many hours in front of a mirror telling myself I was the victim of a crime and I have nothing to be ashamed of. I still don’t always believe it.

Being a victim of sexual violence changes you. We are more likely to have depression, to overeat, to abuse alcohol and drugs, to have unsafe sex, and therefore to contract STDs, and to become victims of abuse.

When we report the sexual violence, we’re always asked why we were walking alone at night or why we wore those shoes or that dress, as though it’s our responsibility to quiet men’s “natural urges.”

In our rape culture, we blame the victim, while too many men go on thinking we’re here to fulfill their desires. If we resist their come-ons, we must be “frigid” or lesbians. There’s this sense of entitlement among some men that says we’re here just for them. If they desire us, they’re entitled to take what they want because we wore those shoes or that dress or we went into a bar alone.

Back when the Kennedy kid was accused of rape, the young woman was ostracized for taking off her pantyhose before a barefoot walk on a beach, while no one said a word about the young man taking off his socks. And it should be pointed out that taking off one’s socks is not the same as “Come hither.”

So, violence is done to us and we are blamed.

Breaking free from that is difficult at best. It takes an incredible amount of work on ourselves to begin to feel worthy of respect.

If you think that’s a special status, fine, as long as you understand the special thing is that we survived it.

If you think we embrace it, think again.

Perhaps if you had been raped your understanding would be different. But I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, Mr. Will, not even you.




It appears we scare them

Is it that we have so many people or that they don;t want to hear the truth? Whatever, they keep running from us,

Is it that we have so many people or that they don;t want to hear the truth? Whatever it is, they keep running from us.

We in the Moral Monday Movement had planned to walk through the General Assembly Building Monday afternoon and deliver letters to legislators asking them to reconsider the harmful laws they passed last year.

They knew we were coming, so they locked all the doors. Members of the House were in the building, but they didn’t want any contact with us, so we marched around the building.

Rev. William Barber said he saw legislators in the building and waved to them, but he got no response.

So the 100 or so people carrying letters asking the members of the legislature to expand Medicaid, force Duke Energy to clean up its coal ash mess and stop fracking tucked the letters into the door handles. We walked up the hill to the state house, but the governor wasn’t there, so 11 brave souls sat down to wait for him. After a couple hours, they were handcuffed, given citations and released.

Look, I’m not a fan of theatrics, but we need to show the people of this state that their elected representatives are unresponsive to the people.

I have tried repeatedly to meet with several leaders, but because I’m not in their districts, they dismiss my requests. Tim Moffitt, my representative, is the only Republican who will meet with me. I can’t sway him even a tiny bit, but at least he doesn’t run away when he sees me coming.

We in the Moral Mondays crowd only ask that leaders meet with us to discuss issues, and they have refused. They have run away from us, locked us up and locked us out. They have called us names and said insulting things about us.

We are not going to back down.

After we were locked out of the GA Building, and after the 11 were released, we marched around the state house seven times — our symbolic Jericho.

A couple hundred of us were back on Wednesday to talk to legislators about Medicaid Expansion.

My first stop was Tim Moffitt, who, as usual, welcomed me into his office. We always are civil, even though we disagree. He said he thought the liberals were being hypocritical by demonstrating now, since we didn’t do this while Democrats were in power.

I explained to him that HKonJ has been demonstrating on Jones Street for years — long before 2010 — but the Democrats were willing to meet with us and talk to us. Sometimes, we even managed to move them to action. So far, Speaker Thom Tillis has refused to talk to us and has in fact, run away from us. The governor won’t met with us. So far, all he has done is offer us cookies, as though we’re a bunch of preschoolers who don’t understand the issues.

If we could meet with these leaders, we certainly wouldn’t go to these lengths.

I don’t give a damn what party these people belong to; they have politicized things that should have nothing to do with politics.

This movement isn’t about right versus left; it’s about right versus wrong.

It’s wrong to deny access to health care for 500,000 people and to let some 2,400 of them die each year. It’s wrong to disenfranchise voters as the new law does. It’s wrong to cut Medicaid, to cut food stamps and unemployment. It’s wrong to allow big energy giants to poison our water, land and air.

Still, they lock us out, lock us up and run from us when we try to speak to them. They mock us, but there is fear in their voices and in their eyes.

We stand for economic and social justice and we will not back down.


I stand with Richard Martinez

Richard Martinez holds a picture of his son, who was killed by a gunman over the weekend.

Richard Martinez holds a picture of his son, who was killed by a gunman over the weekend.

You might think your vote doesn’t matter, but it does.

When you stay home instead of going to the polls, the lobbyists and the big corporations get the people they want — people who won’t pass ANY gun safety laws; people who support fracking; people who will slash basic safety net programs and who refuse to expand Medicaid.

Yesterday, Richard Martinez, the father of a young man who was killed by an angry young man with three legally obtained semi-automatic weapons, said he will spend the rest of his life working for change.

He choked through tears that he wants this gun madness to stop, and he said, “My son is dead and there is nothing they could do to me that is worse than that.”

I’ve been saying that since my own son died from neglect because he couldn’t get access to health care, and I have worked for expanded access to health care.

Now Richard Martinez will work for sensible gun laws, and I am with him. He said he fears nothing because the worst thing that can happen to anyone has happened to him.

But every time it looks as though we might get just one piece of sensible legislation through, it falls flat.

What do get passed are laws allowing guns anywhere — in malls, in parks, in fast-food restaurants. And as soon as those laws are passed and signed, we see semi-automatic weapons strapped to people in line at Chick-fil-A and Sonic. A woman was shot at a Walmart when someone’s gun went off accidentally, although I hardly think of it as an accident when someone purposely takes a loaded gun shopping.

I am tired of the pro-gun talking points:

“Guns don’t kill people; people do.”

Answer: People with guns kill more people than anything else. In domestic disputes, if there’s no gun handy, it rarely ends in murder. If people with active mental illnesses couldn’t gain access to semi-automatic weapons, Richard’s son still would be alive, as would all the children in Newtown, Conn., not to mention the people who were in the theater at Aurora, Col., the people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin and on and on and on …

“Well then, why don’t we outlaw knives and cars? They kill people too.”

Answer: First of all, they don’t kill nearly as many people as guns do, and secondly, they have other uses; they are not manufactured solely for the purpose of killing people.

“I have a Second Amendment right to my guns.”

Answer: Not so much. The Second Amendment has been interpreted — after much lobbying by the gun industry — as meaning we all can have as many guns as we want, but the the amendment reads: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

That part about the well regulated militia? I don’t often hear mention of that when people argue the amendment gives all of us unfettered access to whatever guns we want to play with. The amendment was adopted because the United States had no standing army at the time and George Washington didn’t want one. The amendment should have been repealed when we established a standing army.

“We just need to keep guns out of the hands of people with mental illnesses.”

The young man who killed Richard’s son was deeply troubled. His family tried to intervene, but to no avail. He wanted to stop taking his medications, so he did. He was over 18 so no one could force him into treatment. And despite the young man’s history, he was able to buy three semi-automatic weapons. Maybe we could keep them out of the hands of people who have psychiatric issues, but we don’t.

The lack of willingness on the part of Congress to pass any kind of gun safety legislation because of their fear of the NRA and gun manufacturers speaks loudly about how important it is that we get out and vote for people with the guts to stand up to these greedy bastards.

I have said it again and again: I don’t object to people who want to hunt or target shoot owning guns, but I do want to see someone charged with murder every time a child is killed while playing with a gun. It’s no accident if there’s a loaded gun in the house and a child is killed while playing with it; the charge should be manslaughter, if not murder.

One final talking point:

“You’ll have to pry my gun out of my cold, dead hands.”

Answer: OK.



A year ago today

This was taken May 13, 2013, the night I got arrested.

This was taken May 13, 2013, the night I got arrested. The woman singing is my friend, Yara Allen. We sang together all the way to jail.

On May 13, 2013, I was arrested for the first time in my life.

I was in a public building, trying to exercise my Constitutional right to speak to legislators and I was charged with second-degree trespass, carrying a prohibited sign into the General Assembly Building and “chanting and loud singing.”

The second and third charges were dropped because the building rules were so vague as to be unconstitutional. I would have protested the second charge anyway because the only thing I carried was a photo of my late son.

I was found guilty and have appealed, but my lawyer tells me it could be 3-5 years before my case is finally dealt with.

I have been to court six times now and I have another court date June 2, but my case isn’t likely to be called then. So much for my right to a speedy trial.

I didn’t have to fight this. I could have paid $180 and done 25 hours of public service, but that would mean admitting guilt and I didn’t do anything wrong.

As I said on the stand, I did not go into the General Assembly Building for the purpose of getting arrested; I went because I was desperate to be heard.

Five to eight people are dying prematurely every day because we refuse to expand Medicaid. Estimates for the annual death toll range from 1,500 to 2,800.

I had tried to speak to legislators. My representative in the House, Tim Moffitt, just blew me off. The last time I went to see him, he said, rather peevishly, “Yes, I know about your son.”

When I went with Rev. Barber to try and talk to Thom Tillis, he literally burst out the back door of his office and ran away. There’s video proof of that somewhere, but my own video of the event plays over and over in my head.

If you know me, you know health care is my primary issue, but it doesn’t stand alone; no issue does.

That’s why I have joined with tens of thousands of others in this Forward Together Movement. I have met and been befriended by some amazing people, and the experience has changed my life for the better. I feel so alive when I’m with my fellow protesters and activists. I feel a part of something bigger than any of us.

This bunch of fools in Raleigh has done all it can to dismantle the entire safety net, not to mention education, voter rights, LGBT rights and the environment. My fellow activists and I will continue to fight them.

I will continue to go to Moral Mondays as they start up again next week. I will continue to speak out for economic and social justice as long as I have a voice.

I am not afraid of jail, although I prefer not to be arrested for asserting my Constitutional rights again.

No one can hurt me more than the unnecessary death of my son has hurt me already, so I am particularly dangerous to those who would silence the Moral Mondays folks. People with no fear really do scare them because they can’t cow us into submission.

I want a better world for my grandchildren and my great-granddaughter, and I won’t stop working for it.



The result of apathy

tom hill

So the primary election is over and in the 11th Congressional District of North Carolina,  I fear we made a big mistake.

We gave the nod to Tom Hill, who knows little or nothing about politics. He spent much of his campaign against Cecil Bothwell two years ago with his foot in his mouth. He calls himself a moderate, but he hates all Muslims. He is anti-marriage equality.

From his Facebook page, in response to a John Boyle column:

The article is neither “beautiful” nor “well said”. It completely misses the point that society as a whole defines the forms of marriage it will approve, irrespective of what the Old Testament may say on the subject. Our society does have a strong undercurrent of Christian teachings, but our culture would not approve of polygamy or incest, for example, regardless of its religious bent. The same is true in non Christian countries such as Japan. There are no such entities as “gay rights”. There are only human rights, and in this country all gays have the same human rights that the rest of us have. What the homosexuals want is a special right to marry a person of the same sex and to procreate jointly, which is a physical impossibility. No other person in this state has the right to marry a person of the same sex, and we are not going to make a dispensation for gays and lesbians, many of whom have voluntarily selected that lifestyle. Just ask the actress Cynthia Nixon. I am not “ashamed” of my state’s common sense response to Amendment One, and I would like to contribute a dollar to the “Send John Boyle To A Gay/ Lesbian Marriage-Approving State” movement.”

And we chose this man to oppose Mark Meadows. So, we get another two years of Meadows. I plan to write in a name, perhaps Keith Ruehl or Cecil Bothwell.

I can’t vote for someone who thinks marriage equality isn’t about equal rights. When he says that many have “voluntarily selected” that “lifestyle,” it makes me cringe.

But he won the primary because too many people didn’t do their homework, and voter turnout was a mere 14 percent.

I suppose we get what we deserve as a nation, but what about those of us who do care and do vote?

It doesn’t take very much time to learn about the candidates, and it’s an important part of living in a Democracy.

I spent a good part of Saturday canvassing for Brian Turner, a local business owner who is getting into politics because he sees the damage being caused to our state by extremists in Raleigh.

Brian is running against Tim Moffitt for NC House, and I am going to do all I can to see that Brian wins. He is for the expansion of Medicaid, for restoring funding to schools and our higher education system, for Asheville retaining its ownership of our water supply, against the voter suppression law, against the new tax law that lowered taxes on the wealthy and increased the burden on working people … In other words, he is the polar opposite of Tim Moffitt.

Most of the people I spoke to on Saturday didn’t know Brian Turner, but after hearing he’s pretty much the opposite of Moffitt, they all wanted to vote for him.

This is why I work for candidates. It takes great courage to run for office nowadays. Brian knows that the machine behind Moffitt likely will assault his integrity — Tim told him so.

The message here is that we must vote and we MUST learn a little about the candidates before we go to the polls.



Mark has it right


I met Mark Chilton the evening this photo was taken. It was in late May, 2013; Mark would remember the exact date since it was the night he was arrested during a Moral Monday protest.

Mark was mayor of Carrboro, NC, at the time, and he was standing against the hard right turn taken by the state’s General Assembly. I had been arrested on May 13 and I was volunteering to notarize appearance waivers for people who were arrested.

We struck up a friendship based in large part on our beliefs that people deserve basic rights, including the right to have their needs met — to be paid a living wage for a week’s work, to send their children to decent schools, to have access to quality health care and to vote. He is one of many, many friends I have made in the Forward Together Movement.

When Mark’s mayoral term expired, he decided to run for Register of Deeds in Orange County. In North Carolina, the office registers deeds, births, deaths and marriages.

That might not seem like a good next political step after being mayor, but Mark saw something very important he could do with the office — he ran on a promise that he would recognize — and register — same-sex marriages, even though the state has a constitutional amendment forbidding marriage equality.

In Tuesday’s primary, Mark beat out the incumbent, and since he now runs unopposed, he is just about assured of being sworn in come January.

Mark considers Amendment One unconstitutional, and since he will swear to uphold the US Constitution first and the state Constitution second, he will recognize same-sex marriages.

Marriage equality is happening with remarkable speed across the country. I think Amendment One was a last-gasp attempt to keep change from happening, and it will be declared unconstitutional.

My pastor, Rev. Joe Hoffman, is among the people who filed suit against Amendment One, using the argument that it violates his religious freedom to perform marriages of people in his congregation. The Campaign for Southern Equality is housed in my church.

I joined First Congregational UCC because of its views on marriage equality. I would never attend a church where my sister and her spouse weren’t welcome as who they were.

My sister was able to marry the love of her life before she died of lung cancer in 2006. Her spouse made all the decisions, as was appropriate. No one in my family would have tried to prevent that, but it was wonderful that they had the legal protection in case an asshole emerged from the woodwork.

I have heard horror stories of people being prevented from seeing their loved one in hospitals to loss of property after a death.

As the law stands now, my gay and lesbian friends can be married in one state and “legal strangers” in another. They have to make all kinds of legal preparations to battle that status and they still don’t have the same rights I have — simple because I fell in love with someone of the opposite gender.

The way I see it is that the only marriage that’s any of my business is my own. I actually believe my sister’s marriage strengthened mine because her inability to marry for more than 20 years taught me to appreciate the rights I have and made me want to fight for her to have equal rights.

At my sister’s funeral, the pastor — and evangelical Christian who believes God made us just how we were meant to be — described my sister and her spouse’s love as “extravagant.”

“Such extravagant love can be given only by God,” he said.

I love that line. It has given me a lot of comfort in the years since my sister died, and it has given me the conviction that every human being deserves the right to express that love and to be given the same legal protections I get.

Mark Chilton ran on a promise to recognize that right, and he won. It gives me hope that we are almost there.

Thanks to Mark — and to everyone who voted for him.




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