Death, Taxes…. and Voting!

I can remember being a little kid in grammar school, sitting there in my uniform, listening to the (mostly) nuns teach us “Social Studies”, including about voting not being required of each and every citizen at or above the legal age to do so. In a country that is supposed to be “by the people and for the people”, allowing apathy and inconvenience to keep anyone from participating in the franchise is yet another example of white supremacy. A study done in July supports this: The Urgency of Universal Civic Duty Voting.

Since the 1980’s, every baby born in this country has bee required to have a valid Social Security number in order for baby’s parents to claim them as a dependent on their income taxes. There is no reason that the Social Security system (which is also notified upon the death of almost everyone with a number) cannot be utilized in some way to provide automatic voter registration to everyone eligible (let’s take that as a given for the rest of this post) upon the occasion of their eighteenth birthday. In answer to those screaming about ‘dead people’ getting ballots, it is also possible to require that the Social Security Administration be notified upon the death of everyone to whom it has issued a number, thereby triggering a verification mechanism (in order to avoid taking away the ability to vote from someone who is still very much alive) and removal from the voter registration role once the death has been verified as legitimate.

In addition to automatically registering everyone at age eighteen, it is also necessary that all elections be held almost entirely by mail, with in-person voting primarily available for this who must cast their vote in person (due to disability, etc.) or who did not receive their ballot by mail. This includes the use of prepaid return envelopes, tracking of ballots back to the election officials, and a chance for citizens to correct or address any discrepancies before the ballot is tossed out. The point is, in order to ensure as much compliance as possible with mandatory voting, it is necessary to make it as easy and painless as possible for every eligible voter to cast their ballot. Doing this also brings a halt to the numerous and varied attempts by those on the right to prevent everyone else from voting.

There isn’t any logical reason why all these things can’t be enacted – and every reason to see this as the only sensible way of moving the government to a place where it is truly following the will of the majority instead of the minority. From local, county and state governments through to The White House, the Democratic Party has consistently demanded that everyone be able to cast a vote for the government of their choice, while the right has engaged in more than half a century of covert and overt voter suppression and disfranchisement to maintain their own hold on the reigns of power.

We must vote in numbers too big to manipulate, giving Joe Biden and Kamala Harris a victory so huge that Trump sneaks out of The White House in the middle of the night with his tail between his legs and his sycophants in the House and Senate crawling behind him. There is seriously no other outcome that we can reasonably expect to result in a peaceful transition of power. If Biden wins by just enough to get the Electoral College, especially when it could take weeks to get the totals figured out, we’re unlikely to get by without Trump firing up his gang of armed white supremacists to violence in cities run by Democrats all over the country. Since Biden supporters will be equally enraged and peacefully protesting, there will inevitably be clashes that turn out badly for the people who came to the fight unarmed (i.e., the Biden supporters).

Trump seems to be in self-destruct mode right now, and every day there seems to be another ‘anonymous source close to the president’ or “person familiar with the incident” willing to provide more and worse information that, while utterly unconscionable by any other President, is just verification of what we already know about Trump. Of course he refers to anyone who has chosen to serve our country in battle as “suckers” and those who were injured or died during their tour as “losers”; he threatened to disown his eldest son if he dared to enlist in the Army. Of course he doesn’t understand the willingness of someone to choose country over self; he lacks any ability to do anything that does not primarily and mainly benefit himself.

I feel some sympathy for those presently in the military who have been supportive of Trump’s presidency and it’s horrendous policies who have finally heard what he really thinks about them and their sacrifices, but I feel more pain for all those who have lost limbs, functionality, mental stability and family members or friends while they served in the armed forces. To hear the person referred to as “Commander in Chief” of the armed services speak so disparagingly of those who paid the ultimate price for their patriotism is beyond reprehensible. Maya Angelou said it best; “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” This is who Trump has made very clear he is, for at least the last 25 years in various and assorted media clips.

Journalists are giving John Kelly, former DHS Secretary and Chief-of-Staff for Trump, credit for his silence at the reporting of Trump’s words, as though it’s tacit confirmation of the reports was in some way a sign of bravery on Kelly’s part. That’s bullsh**; some of these things were said either directly to or at least in John Kelly’s presence, and he continued to work for Trump anyway, I don’t think he deserves kudos, he deserves derision. Kelly chose to interpret Trump’s incredulous “What’s in it for them?” at the grave of Kelly’s son as though Trump was awkwardly expressing astonishment at their willingness to sacrifice themselves for their country. Kelly by that time had to know that Trump completely lacks compassion or empathy, making his continued fealty to Trump especially disconcerting and hard to fathom.

I suspect that there are thousands and thousands of things that Trump has said in private to people all over the world that, if put together in one book, would reveal many of the same or similar things that my grandfather and father used to say back in the 60’s and 70’s when it was somehow still acceptable in many circles to be outwardly racist, homophobic, misogynistic and generally just an asshole – at least for white men. Even if such a book were published, with the full names of those providing the quotes prominently placed for effect, it would be highly unlikely to change the opinions of most of the Republicans who will continue to either support Trump or remain silent about him in their own electoral or financial interest. It would do nothing to alter the base’s support or likelihood to vote for him in November, because this is who they knew him to be when they voted for him in 2016 and most still find nothing he says or does as ‘the last straw’ of their support for him.

I’m frustrated by the what-aboutism that continues throughout much of the mainstream media, since there is nothing that the Democrats have done since Reconstruction that can compare to the length, breadth and consistency of the Republicans’ efforts to suppress, withhold, discount and destroy the ability of Black, minority, immigrant and all those likely to vote Democratic to have their voices heard. The time is long past for mainstream media to specifically call out the Republicans as the reason we find ourselves where we are at this particular point in our history – in the middle of a raging pandemic unchecked by any coordinated effort at control or containment at the federal level by a president who refuses to accept responsibility for any of it. This failure in turn has caused the greatest economic catastrophe since the Great Depression (which Trump continues to conflate with the Dow Jones average) while millions have no money for food or rent and are in danger of losing their homes, because those aren’t ‘his people’. Trump only concerns himself with those whose good fortune benefits Trump personally.

I spent two or three hours on Saturday afternoon texting to registered voters in Pennsylvania on behalf of a Congresswoman running for re-election. I don’t live in Pennsylvania, but New Jersey is a relatively blue state, while Pennsylvania (a mid-Atlantic state considered “Midwest” when the presidential election comes around) certainly helped put Trump in The White House in 2016, so I want to help where I can make a difference. These are the things that we can do right not to help get this clown out of office after just one four-year term of destruction.

So do something – volunteer to make calls, send texts, write letters, or postcards to voters across the country in places we want to flip from red to blue in November. The more we do, the greater the likelihood that we can encourage people who weren’t going to vote to do so, or to push someone to request a mail-in ballot in time to have their vote count. More participation in every election is demographically beneficial to Democrats, so Republicans want to keep participation down.

If you want to see change, you have to be the change. It took me years to figure out that the only person I can hope to change is myself, which led me to the amazing realization that everyone with whom we have a relationship is going to do things that get under our skin, and the only options we have about those things involve ourselves, not the other person. We can either accept that this person does that thing that makes you crazy and get over it, or get that person out of our life. There is no ‘I’ll change them to suit me’ option; knowing and understanding that would have led me down an entirely different path back in 1978… and 1993. Better late than never.

My point is, if we want things in politics and government to be different, then we need to do something different to make it so. I’ve never volunteered to help any campaign before in my life, but this time is different; this time matters more than any other in my adult life, and will matter even more years from now, when my children and (fingers crossed!) grandchildren are left to deal with the results of our action – or lack thereof. Even most of the childless have children further out in their families – nieces, nephews, cousins – that they don’t want to see suffer in 40 years because Republicans refused to tackle climate change to benefit the people instead of fossil fuel companies. Think about their future and volunteer for something.

Donate what you can. If there isn’t a particular local candidate you want to support, go to ActBlue.com and donate to the Biden/Harris campaign or to someone like Jamie Harrison for Senate against Lindsey Graham or Amy McGrath against Moscow Mitch.

We cannot just cast a vote every couple of years and call it good enough.  Today, we have the government that a minimally involved citizenry deserves; we have to make the effort so our government works for the 90%, not the 10%.  By the people, for the people.

The Media Has to Call a Spade a Damn Shovel!

Owner of Rode’s Camera Shop for the last 8 years, Tom Gram refused to participate in the maskless Trump-staged photo-op, accusing Trump of exploiting his destroyed store for political gain…
So instead they got the former owner (holding sign, above) who supports Trump to pretend he still owns the place.

About twenty years ago, my best friend convinced me to go with her to a nude beach in northern New Jersey (the only legal one in the state). Since it was actually “Clothing Optional”, I knew that I wasn’t required to get naked and agreed to go but that my clothing wasn’t optional. I was in my 40’s and the mother of two children, and my modesty had left the building long before that first trip to Sandy Hook and I was at least game to see what she was so excited about. Besides, I was a nurse, and body parts are body parts.

We had a long ride and crowds to deal with, so we got there early enough to be able to park close to the beach access. Gunnison Beach is one of several located in The Gateway National Recreation Area, a piece of federal property with the only nude recreation area along the coast in New Jersey. It was very popular among the nudist community and was always crowded most weekends from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

We schlepped our gear to a place near the high-tide mark to spread out our blankets and stake in our umbrellas, and I realized that I had made a mistake when I’d decided to remain in my bathing suit. What was that mistake? I’d made it all about me.

I was worried about what these people I had never seen before and likely never would again thought about my imperfect body – as if it could affect my life. It took only a few minutes to realize I had no reason to worry, because no one else was thinking about me at all. With thousands of other naked bodies everywhere, the only ones attracting attention were those at the extremes – either being extraordinarily beautiful/stacked/hung or the not – rather than being one of mostly imperfect but basically average folks all over the beach. That realization allowed me to join my friend for my first nude beach experience without feeling self-conscious, leading to my first ‘everything that never saw the sun before severe sunburn” that was equally memorable.

Clearly, Donald Trump has never had an experience like that – one in which he realizes that he’s the only one paying attention to him, that the world and it’s people don’t revolve around “The Donald”. In fact, Trump insists on forcing those who have dared to point out his lack of importance in their lives to focus directly on him by forcing himself into their cities, as he did in Kenosha despite requests from the mayor and Wisconsin’s governor to say away. Trump didn’t go to Kenosha to spread peace, love and butterflies; he went specifically to encourage further right-wing violence against protestors and continue his ridiculous denial of the systemic racism built into every aspect of American life.

Trump’s incompetence and incoherence for anything that doesn’t affect himself has now cost the lives of more than 180,000 American lost to Covid-19. His bias against the WHO has now led to the US refusing to participate with 170 countries around the world to develop and distribute a world-wide vaccine for Covid-19! Sure, it makes so much more sense for the US to work all alone while almost the entire rest of the planet works together towards a viable, effective vaccine. How can the people around him support such an irrational decision?

Why is it okay that Fox News pundits are making many of the decisions that Trump then issues as dictates ten minutes later? Fox, the ‘news’ outlet least likely to verify a wingnut’s story before broadcasting it to their viewers, has more control over our national security policy right now than all our intelligence agencies combined? Seriously? How can the idiots on Fox & Friends have more influence on the way we’re (not) dealing with Covid-19 than the experts from the CDC?

Why is some crackpot radiologist from Fox now advising Trump on how to ‘manage’ Covid-19? Because Trump only keeps people around him who tell him what he wants to hear, and he’s been waiting for some incompetent physician without any interest in “first, do no harm” to support his fantasy that the virus will just go away and to push back on Dr. Fauci’s science and facts. Of course Trump would bring in this idiot who believes that everyone should just be exposed to gain ‘herd immunity’ no matter that some 2 millions people will die as a result while Dr. Fauci is on medical leave. Trump and those around him get to use rapid testing to clear anyone coming into contact with them and therefore have no fear that they will be infected by an asymptomatic infected person, so why give a damn about the rest of us, right?

Herd immunity is supposed to refer to the percentage of a given population that are successfully vaccinated and gain immunity in order to prevent the disease from spreading throughout the population. It is not meant to indicate the free-spread of a disease vector throughout the entire populace, killing millions and leaving (maybe) the rest immune for life. We don’t know enough about Covid-19 and future immunity to even know if we can get to a vaccine, so going down this path is not only stupid, it’s outright dangerous. Of course, Trump’s disregard for the value of those citizens unlikely to vote for him, especially those of color, makes this decision that much easier for him to make. Having a physician without a clue whispering in his ear is not a good idea under the best circumstances – under the current ones, it’s criminally negligent.

How is it acceptable to the Republican Party that the CDC, FDA and NIH are now being forced to heel by Trump, making statements in defiance of facts and science? Trump’s insistence “over the last six months that “it will go away like a miracle” or that it’s “no worse than catching the flu” fits neatly into his plan towards attaining ‘herd immunity’ by forcing the citizens of the United States to catch Covid-19, spread it to everyone they come into contact with before getting sick and possibly dying or having long-term negative health issues as a result of the virus is further proof of his malicious indifference to the lives of everyone outside of himself.

Here’s the thing, though… listening to Joe Biden’s speeches over the past few months has reminded the country as a whole what a President is supposed to sound and act like. Trump now realizes that everything he’s been trying to throw up to see if it sticks on Joe has been for naught, because we know who Joe Biden is, just like we know who Donald Trump is, and most of us don’t want Donald Trump in charge of anything, ever again. Trump brazenly and in full public view does only those things that offer a clear, personal benefit to himself, his cronies or his reelection; if there is anything that somehow benefits the country or its citizens, that is more coincidental than intentional. Trump’s continued conflation of positive tests with infected people defies logic and reveals that he clearly lacks the mental capacity to continue as president. No matter how many people are tested, those who are passing this virus around are still going to do so, we just won’t know where they are or who they’re spreading it to, helpful in attempts to slow the spread but useless if you want to claim fewer people have been exposed on your watch. What is most disconcerting is that the people most at risk from his calculations are his cult followers, because they believe what he’s telling them.

Trump spreads conspiracy theories, using his Twitter account to push all sorts of crazy stuff to his cult followers, and the far-right gangs showing up at BLM protests proves how effective they are at firing up the most extreme of his base. Trump won’t do the ‘presidential’ thing and denounce these gangs and their long guns because he knows he will be offending his own base, again placing his hopes for reelection above the need to deescalate the situation and call off his minions. He’s emboldening these people to arm themselves and show up at mostly peaceful protests where they initiate violence that has resulted in more than a few people being injured or killed. Who in any position of real authority would foment such insurrection? Since when does the president offer bogus excuses for a vigilante killing peaceful protestors?

We have to do everything we can to ensure that in January, 2021, President Biden is sworn into office and Trump’s misdeeds and crimes are brought into the light. Everything we can.

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Volunteer to help

Donate if you can, as much as you can comfortably afford.

Talk to your friends and family to make sure that they are registered to vote, have requested a vote-by-mail ballot or plan to vote early, and intend to vote for the Democratic ticket.

I have found the last one to be both the one I have the most chance of making a difference with AND the most frustrating to do successfully.  My son, who turned 40 this past May, seems to be getting a good bit of his ‘information’ from people just like me – bloggers with opinions versus actual news media with facts to share, and I have been hard pressed to disabuse him of the things he’s been hearing.  He and his wife kindly agreed to let a couple and their 5 year old daughter move in when they were at risk of being homeless, and it seems that the male of this couple also believes the things my son and I have been arguing over recently, judging by his loud and uninvited interjections into my phone conversations with my son.

On my last conversation with Christopher about the upcoming Presidential election, I felt as if I’d made just a little bit of headway, after he agreed that making the perfect the enemy of the good does not benefit anyone except the Republicans.  I also told him that it’s up to him and his cohorts to do something if they want things to change in big ways, including by running for office, or supporting progressive candidates who support their interests in elections locally and nationally.  Bitching about what came before or what is happening now without putting in some work to get to where you want things to be is just whining and blame-shifting.

Get off your ass and DO SOMETHING!