Youth to the Rescue
Heartache | Anger | Pride | Inspiration
Hope | Déjà Vu | Gratitude
These are some of the feelings I’ve experienced recently:
Heartache that another senseless mass shooting has taken place while our legislators continue to stand by and do nothing.
Anger that again and again we hear sympathies from our congressmen rather than action to curb the violence.
Pride for our brave, young survivors for rising from the ashes of tragedy and channeling their grief and anger into powerful and positive action.
Inspiration from our brilliant, courageous youth, who have so eloquently challenged our political leaders, proclaiming they will not be denied the safety they deserve. These kids are holding the legislators hands to the fire, making small dents in the fabric of today’s politics. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.
Hope that at last the large population of decent citizens is beginning to wake from their slumber and demand that change happen. And that gun violence is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the issues that desperately need to be addressed.
Déjà vu as today’s events mirror my own experiences from the ’60s, causing me to relive Vietnam era anger, hopes, fears, and doubts, all expressed in my writings. I’ve found myself again observing how exposure to ongoing injustice takes us as a people to a boiling point—forcing us to demand change.
During the ’60s, we marched to the battle cry of “Make love not war!” Today we find ourselves rallying behind the slogan “Enough is enough!”
Gratitude that never before has greed, narcissism, prejudice, pettiness, homophobia, and misogyny practiced by many of our top legislators been so transparent—not to mention a disturbing disregard for the environment. There has always been corruption at the upper levels of government, but I’m appalled at how shamelessly widespread it is with our current lawmakers.
This makes it all the more difficult for those of us who value honesty, integrity, freedom, and equality to ignore the daily affronts to these treasured attributes. After all, aren’t these the cornerstones of our democracy?
Here’s hoping that today's unrest is the kindling for positive change.
An Avalanche of Emotion
I don’t know about any of you, but I’ve experienced a long list of emotions over the past 18 months. And I’m a pretty even-keeled guy, so mellow in fact that one friend said I was only a step away from being a cadaver. With that as my base point, I can’t believe what I’ve been feeling.
Too many brave Americans have fought and died on the battlefield and protested in our streets to protect the values we stand for—those values I have cherished all my life. We, as a people, need to learn from every setback that it’s critical to keep moving forward and never tolerate anything less than freedom and justice for all.It all started with amusement as I first watched a Bozo impersonator, complete with tufts of orange hair, declare he was going to run for the highest position in the land. Even my brother-in-law, a staunch Republican, considered this joker a buffoon.
“Coulrophobia” is the fear of clowns. Although phobias are seldom a good thing, it would have been the perfect time for all of us to develop this one.
The next emotion to hit me was overload from being bombarded by this clown’s image and voice as he bullied, degraded, and spouted lies at the blink of an eye—or the click of a tweet. I was amazed to see he had a following, but surely decent folks couldn’t take this man seriously.
As time went on, repulsion set in. I watched him insult and attack Hispanics, Muslims, women, the LGBT community, the physically challenged, war heroes, and anyone who opposed him. I took solace in the fact that no way would his outrageous, disgusting, and fraudulent behavior appeal to my countrymen. After all, he railed against everything we stood for.
Surely the disenfranchised understood that this man who had spent his life taking every advantage for self-gain would never actually rescue the little folks, no matter what he promised.
During the fall as the election approached, I felt dismay that his numbers had grown. Were there really that many people willing to buy his snake oil? I felt a powerful patriotism grow within me, wanting to protect the values I attributed to our nation. For the first time in my life, I prayed for my country.
The day after the election hit me hard. I was overcome with paralyzing shock and disbelief. I have lived through many elections and suffered disappointment when my candidate lost, but this was something else. This was an assault on everything I held dear, on the very foundation upon which our country was based: honesty, integrity, freedom, and equality.
I believed that Republican voters also appreciated these aspects of decency. I also hoped that the religious right, in spite of their strong pro-life beliefs, would use discretion when choosing a leader, rather than turning a blind eye to despicable words and deeds.
A Christian missionary woman on the radio said she voted for him so he can bring back family values. Really? A man who boasted about grabbing women’s genitals without their consent?
For the following week I fell into a depressed funk. How could my fellow citizens dismiss this blatant attack on respectability? Realizing that despair is not productive and definitely not enjoyable, I went deeper inside, using meditation to find some peace and clarity.
During his first week in office, our new president took away a mortgage discount that would have helped 16 million people and threatened to cut funding to the DOJ’s Violence Against Women programs, the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ, the Minority Business Development Agency, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Office of Electricity Deliverability and Energy Reliability, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Planned Parenthood, and a host of other services.
He ordered the resumption of construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline and effectively put a gag order on the EPA and the USDA, demanding they stop communicating with the public through social media or the press and freeze all grants and contracts.
And that was just the beginning.
Then came his Muslim ban. Needless to say, this sparked outrage, not exactly my favorite sentiment.
Wake up, America! As the world holds its breath and our allies back away, could it be that our president poses the greatest threat to our national security?
My wife is a Swiss immigrant. Her friends and family want to know how we could let this happen. For Europeans, the dangers of having an unstable person leading a powerful nation are still too fresh in their memories. Are we going to let this band of billionaires plunder the treasures of our democracy?
I’m still not finished with this emotional avalanche. My fear for people of color and other minorities can’t be ignored. And hatred. In a previous blog, I wrote that I was involved with draft resistance during the sixties. At a certain point, I had to step back from all of it because I found I was fighting for love with hate in my heart (check out chapter 30 in my memoir, Groovin’).
Here I am, facing this danger again. I started to despise a man and his actions while knowing in my heart that positive change never comes from hatred.
It has been a struggle finding my center as I’ve trudged through the five stages of grief, shaking my head in disbelief along the way. Every day I have to make a firm commitment to keep a steady course.
Over the weeks since the election, I’ve learned a few things. I realized how much I love my country and how determined I am to fight for my principles without compromising them. I also discovered that a whole lot of folks feel the same way. The worldwide, multi-million-person women’s march attested to that, offering hope.
As I reached the last stage of grief, acceptance, I recognized how dangerous it was to complete this process. Yet I’ve had to accept the state of our ailing union to some extent so I can stay calm and clear about where we are and what we can do.
But I cannot under any circumstances accept injustice. I need to hold on to just enough anger to fuel my resolve. Too many brave Americans have fought and died on the battlefield and protested in our streets to protect the values we stand for—those values I have cherished all my life. We, as a people, need to learn from every setback that it’s critical to keep moving forward and never tolerate anything less than freedom and justice for all.
What Can We Do?
Here’s something positive I did this week. I called the offices of the Republican representatives listed below and left voice messages with my name and “I voted Democratic but I support your opposition to the immigration order. It’s refreshing to see a Republican standing up to President Trump. I just wanted to thank you.”
You can do it too. The more phone calls they get in support, the more likely they will continue their opposition, not only on this, but in other areas.
Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.): 202-225-6411
Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.): 202-225-3831
Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA): 202-225-5816
Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY): 202-225-4611
Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA): 202-225-4276
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL): 202-225-3931
Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL): 202-225-2778
Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA): 202-225-5136
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.): (202) 224-4224
Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME): (202) 224-2523
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.): (202) 224-4521
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz): (202) 224-2235
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC): (202) 224-5972
Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) (202) 224-3353
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) (202) 224-5251
Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN): (202) 224-3344
This list comes from Jimmy Camp, a Republican consultant, posted on Facebook. Please share it.
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Youth to the Rescue