I'm writing this blog in what I consider a mean-spirited time in the America I love, and I have to reluctantly admit that, though I created the phrase about the quality of life that appears above, the present circumstances have, of late, impacted the quality of my emotional life. As a political junkie, I’m never comfortable when meanness and injustice run amok. Fortunately, I’m also a Jon Stewart junkie, so I’ve learned to have a good time with the insanity that takes hold of the right wing and the wrong-headed, which helps me remember that we’ve had some joyous times as well. 

We recently celebrated the memory of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s March on Selma with another such march, one that included a long-time hero of mine, John Lewis, who lead the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge 50 years ago with MLK, and this month with President Obama and leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. It was a glorious day. The coverage brought back memories of watching the March on our black and white television five decades ago. I wept with joy for what was happening, but with horror and shame for being white. President Obama delivered an uplifting and profound speech at that bridge. And only seven Senate Republicans showed up.

As if to humiliate themselves further, 47 Senate Republicans sent a letter – perhaps their lowest point to date – to Ayatollah Khamenei, informing him that his and President Obama’s plan to work together with regard to Iran’s nukes is a no go, to which the Ayatollah replied with a sharp rebuke. Then the SAE fraternity at Oklahoma University was caught on video chanting the “N” word. So, I am glad that long ago in Johannesburg, where I was doing workshops on HIV/AIDS and Violence Against Women, I first saw Jon Stewart on, CNN World. We laugh a lot in those workshops, and I hope you’ll enjoy our current wacky world with me, and that you will find some inspiration for your advocacy, activism, or your personal way of expressing your passion.   



The 50th anniversary of the March on Selma, which is also known as “Bloody Sunday,” because of the viciousness with which marchers were beaten and tortured and left bleeding and in agony on that bridge. Even with that in mind, the anniversary was a stellar event. It stands as a powerful reminder of just how far race relations in America have come, and also how much is yet to be done in our reach for equality. Leading the March was President Obama, Michelle Obama, and their daughters, John Lewis, who organized the original protest fifty years ago and is currently the U.S. Representative for Georgia's 5th congressional district, former President George W. Bush, Laura Bush, civil rights leaders like Jesse Jackson, activists from all over the country, and many more civic leaders and celebrities. 

Fifty years ago, the marchers knew they faced great danger from rabid racists. They met up at the Brown Chapel AME Church in Selma, Alabama, to start what Martin Luther King promised would be a peaceful March from Selma to Montgomery. They had suffered many wrongful deaths, human rights violations, physical assaults, burnings, lynchings, verbal abuse, assaults on their dignity, and the damnable denial of their constitutional right to vote. The need for societal change pressed on them to take their cause to the streets and to George Wallace, who was then the 
Governor of Alabama, and was loved by reactionary racists, tolerated by too many Alabamans, and a problem for Blacks. Television coverage of the event in 1965 triggered national outrage, awakening the public's conscience and eventually leading Congress to pass the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965, which mandated federal oversight over elections in states with histories of discrimination.

And what a shame, though no surprise, that so few Congressional Republicans showed up to demonstrate their respect for the brave and committed Americans who struggled for their rights and freedom. How typical that they would attempt a misguided power play, as they frequently do, to undermine whatever our first African American President does or supports. Perhaps it was payback to the Democrat and Independent Senators who boycotted Bibi Netanyahu’s insulting speech before Congress, delivered at the behest of John Boehner. That move has already greatly diminished the Speaker’s gravitas with a large swath of world leaders who are currently working closely with President Obama on several fronts, and growing numbers of Americans who see through the Congressional Republican’s bluster. The difference between the Bibi Boycott and the March is that the Senators wanted to turn their backs to the mean-spiritedness of the entire process surrounding the Speaker’s invite, particularly the animosity towards our President that they knew Bibi would spew. As for the bulk of the Congregational Republicans not showing up for the March, it was done with the same spirit of meanness and hate they show for our President and the equal rights of African Americans that America was celebrating.   

John Lewis 50 years ago and at the front of the 50th Anniversary of the March

Fifty years after being beaten by police on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, U.S. Rep. John Lewis told a crowd gathered there to build on the legacy of the civil rights movement and to stand up for what they believe in. He spoke before introducing President Obama, and began by saying that:

 “The American instinct that led those young men and women to pick up the torch and cross this bridge is the same instinct that moved patriots to choose revolution over tyranny. It’s the same instinct that drew immigrants from across oceans and the Rio Grande; the same instinct that led women to reach for the ballot and workers to organize against an unjust status quo; the same instinct that led us to plant a flag at Iwo Jima and on the surface of the Moon. It’s the idea held by generations of citizens who believed that America is a constant work in progress; who believed that loving this country requires more than singing its praises or avoiding uncomfortable truths. It requires the occasional disruption, the willingness to speak out for what’s right and shake up the status quo. That’s what makes us unique, and cements our reputation as a beacon of opportunity. Young people behind the Iron Curtain would see Selma and eventually tear down a wall. Young people in Soweto would hear Bobby Kennedy talk about ripples of hope and eventually banish the scourge of apartheid. Young people in Burma went to prison rather than submit to military rule. From the streets of Tunis to the Maidan in Ukraine, this generation of young people can draw strength from this place, where the powerless could change the world’s greatest superpower, and push their leaders to expand the boundaries of freedom. They saw that idea made real in Selma, Alabama.  They saw it made real in America.”

You can read the full speech here, but I put my favorite bits here, because I want to make sure you experience the impact of these inspiring words. 

"James Baldwin wrote, ‘We are capable of bearing a great burden…once we discover that the burden is reality and arrive where reality is.’  This is work for all Americans, not just some. Not just whites. Not just blacks. If we want to honor the courage of those who marched that day, then all of us are called to possess their moral imagination. All of us will need to feel, as they did, the fierce urgency of now. All of us need to recognize, as they did, that change depends on our actions, our attitudes, the things we teach our children. And if we make such effort, no matter how hard it may seem, laws can be passed, and consciences can be stirred, and consensus can be built. We must use this moment to recommit ourselves to do all we can to finish this work. There's still work to be done," said Lewis, adding this is an opportunity to "redeem the soul of America."

                                 President Obama

Obama’s speech was moving, truthful, patriotic, powerful, and has been lauded widely across America, and resonated far beyond our nation. He was right that we’ve come so far in 50 years, but we have so much more work to do. I am so grateful to have grown up on the South Side of Chicago, which was where the Obamas were raising their family before they moved into the White House. It was integrated when I was a kid, and it remains an integrated neighborhood. So much so that even though I knew well the pain that some of my black friends suffered, I am always shocked by bigotry, particularly the kind that is demonstrated by the small-minded hate-speech of members of both houses of Congress who would never talk to a white President the way the speak to – and of – Barak Obama. And frankly, they have no excuse for not showing up at the 50th anniversary of the long March to Selma. On the other hand, their rudeness and dismissal of its importance did not go unnoticed. And to think, these very same Republicans live with some fantasy that they will win over African American voters in 2016. What are they thinking? Are they utterly delusional? I wonder if bigots of a certain age in Congress were raised in homes where they sat around their televisions 50 year ago horrified to discover that those uppity marchers thought they deserved the same rights as white folk.

President Obama’s Speech:

“It is a rare honor in this life to follow one of your heroes. And John Lewis is one of my heroes. 
Now, I have to imagine that when a younger John Lewis woke up that morning 50 years ago and made his way to Brown Chapel, heroics were not on his mind. A day like this was not on his mind. Young folks with bedrolls and backpacks were milling about. Veterans of the movement trained newcomers in the tactics of non-violence; the right way to protect themselves when attacked. A doctor described what tear gas does to the body, while marchers scribbled down instructions for contacting their loved ones. The air was thick with doubt, anticipation and fear. And they comforted themselves with the final verse of the final hymn they sung: “No matter what may be the test, God will take care of you; Lean, weary one, upon His breast, God will take care of you.” 
As John noted, there are places and moments in America where this nation’s destiny has been decided. Many are sites of war -- Concord and Lexington, Appomattox, Gettysburg. Others are sites that symbolize the daring of America’s character -- Independence Hall and Seneca Falls, Kitty Hawk and Cape Canaveral. Selma is such a place. In one afternoon 50 years ago, so much of our turbulent history -- the stain of slavery and anguish of civil war; the yoke of segregation and tyranny of Jim Crow; the death of four little girls in Birmingham; and the dream of a Baptist preacher -- all that history met on this bridge. Fifty years from Bloody Sunday, our march is not yet finished, but we’re getting closer. Two hundred and thirty-nine years after this nation’s founding our union is not yet perfect, but we are getting closer. Our job’s easier because somebody already got us through that first mile. Somebody already got us over that bridge. When it feels the road is too hard, when the torch we’ve been passed feels too heavy, we will remember these early travelers, and draw strength from their example, and hold firmly the words of the prophet Isaiah: “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on [the] wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not be faint.”  We honor those who walked so we could run.  We must run so our children soar.  And we will not grow weary.  For we believe in the power of an awesome God, and we believe in this country’s sacred promise. (To read the rest of President Obama's speech, please click here.)
What We Can Do:

  1. Read the full speech and let the fullness of his words move and inspire you. 
  2. Do the same with John Lewis’ speech and imagine if there is anything you would be willing to go as far for your beliefs as the 600 who marched 50 years ago.
  3. If you do, do yourself a favor and look at ways you can ease your way towards doing something. You might start with small steps like researching the components, getting support.
  4. Sit with it, meditate on it, see how it “feels,” and if it feels right, good, and true, decide what you want to do and go with it.
  5. See this moving film. It was directed brilliantly by Ava DuVernay, who is also an executive producer. The huge cast includes starring performances by David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King, JR, Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King, Tom Wilkinson as President Lyndon B. Johnson, and Oprah Winfrey as Annie Lee Cooper (she is also a producer). Brad Pitt is also one of the eight executive producers. For much more, please check out IMBD.

                                                                                                                                     Voting is a Right        

    When I spotted this email in my inbox from one of my favorite people in politics, I thought everyone should read it, particularly since our right to vote is much less secure.
    Elizabeth Warren

    "In the past half-century, thanks to the necessary trouble of heroes like John Lewis, our country has made great progress – but not enough progress. There are those who want to take away votes, those who want to make it harder to get an education, and those who believe that justice and dignity are reserved only for some people.

    The Supreme Court has now struck down a key section of the Voting Rights Act. Too many young men have died in police custody. And the grinding heel of poverty has borne down harder on children of color. We celebrate the brave people of Selma, but it is up to US to make change now.

    • It’s up to us to make sure every child can walk down the street free from fear and distrust.
    • It’s up to us to ensure our justice system works fairly for all Americans.
    • It’s up to us to make sure our government and our political system serve not just the richest people and the most powerful corporations, but that our government serves ALL people.
    • It’s up to us to build a future so that ALL of our children have the opportunity to succeed."
    I’m sure Elizabeth Warren annoys the President’s detractors too with her keen sense of corporate over-reach and corporate collusion with Congress over big bucks and politics. They buy votes and gerrymandering, and give out payola to those who make sure those who would vote against them can’t or don’t vote. We need to keep the court from being one that stands in the way of voters and make sure it is one that insures the rights of all Americans to vote. The court is supposed to be above partisan politics.

    What We Can Do:
    1. Progressive thinkers and social justice advocates have friends on the court. Read up on the members.
    2. Read some of their decisions with regard to voting rights
    3. You might want to write to the justices on the Supreme Court. They don’t need your vote, but they do like to know where you stand.
    4. If you don’t already, you may want to follow Elizabeth Warren to keep in touch with what she’s doing
    5. Who knows? You may even want to fight corruption too.

What do Sigma Alpha Epsilon and Congressional Republicans have in common? One Word Answer: RACISM

Actually, now that I think about it, there are more ways these entities have in common. Let me find the words. There are plenty of ways to describe bigotry; so keep RACISTS and add: UGLY, UNCONSCIOUS, and UNCONSCIONABLE.

                                                                 Sigma Alpha Epsilon

As I read about the scandal surrounding SAE, it seemed that racism must be inherent in some part of the structure of either Oklahoma University, Sigma Alpha Epsilon National or local, or perhaps in the families that raised these little privileged racists. I know there are some people who, including an African American brother, as in SAE brother, say that there’s no racism there. Hmmmm, let’s see, how often do you use the “N” word in a song or sentence? Even if it’s just a word, nigger is in a class of words we’re not supposed to use, and children that are well-raised will not use. Words like kike, fag, dyke, honky, spic, dago, chink, red skin, towel head, mick... I could go on, but I just can’t. As I look at them on the page, I can hardly believe I’ve actually typed them out. I have a creepy, sick feeling, because I know that some of these words can cut deeply, and that they can even lead kids to commit suicide, which is why I’m involved with the Colin Higgins Foundation that sponsors annual LGBTQ Youth Courage Awards, and am a great fan of the Trevor Project, which sponsors an LGBTQ suicide hot line and a bevy of wonderful, inventive, powerful life-saving programs. See the side-bar on the right for more information on Trevor.  That said, I do love that these frat boys thought they were safe slinging trash and bigotry and I also love that they had to get right our of the SAE house because The National organization shut the chapter down, closed up the house, and tossed them out of the fraternity. The two most egregious offenders were expelled from Oklahoma University over their alleged "leadership role." I hope that the cost of having such a record to carry into real life will give them a better idea of what it means to live with the consequences of their actions, because it will help them to build a better character, and perhaps inspire them to do some real good in the world.

If you haven’t seen this video, it should be eye-opening.   


                                              Legislator or Trouble Maker?

So John Boehner invited Bibi Netanyahu to address both houses of Congress without running it by, or informing, the President, and though Congress gave Bibi a bunch of standing ovations, when he went back to Israel he discovered, that though he thought he had put President Obama in his place, his ambitious, graceless assault failed to achieve the big push he was desperately hoping for. He needed his appearance in America to provide a bump. He thought it would put him back in the lead in the election he faced, when in fact, the technique failed, so even though he gave a great speech, if you were only interested in style and had no expectations of anything based in reality or without poorly hidden agendas, when he got home he still had some convincing to do. I must also say that watching the Democrats jumping up every time Bibi put an exclamation point on a sentence, regardless of its value or voracity, cemented my theory that they have little courage or party loyalty, and precious little understanding of politics, let alone the talent or passion for winning. Also, the smug yet sad-faced Speaker of the House, who always looks like he’s nursing a hangover, made me wish America had congressional leaders with vision, a passion for truth, and the good sense not to turn Congress over to a foreign leader’s agenda.

                                The Puppet Master

On the other hand Binyamin Netanyahu would do anything to win, voraciously making promises he can’t keep, and defaming those who do not kiss his coat tails, like Isaac Herzog and his Zionist Union, which was moving ahead in the polls. So, Bibi decided to fall back on something that usually works for him: making outlandish, frightening statements about how, if he weren't in power, Herzog would enact a two-state solution, not protect them or their borders, and further, that he would work with the Arab parties. He also claimed that all of Herzog’s financial support comes from western liberals, while all the time filling his own deep pockets with the big bucks of Las Vegas gambling magnet, Sheldon Adelson. According to many publications, Adelson and his wife, put between $100 million and $150 million into Republican coffers in 2012 to put a Republican in the White House, which explains a lot. He’s not a man who likes to lose, either in our country or in Israel, where he tries to diminish that possibility through ownership of a bevy of right-wing newspapers, in which he can make up whatever he likes about President Obama or anything that threatens his fiefdom in Israel. But back to Bibi: what Netanyahu fails to notice is that this Iran plan that he’s so freaked out about is not just between the United States and Iran. They are joined by Britain, China, France, Russia, and Germany. So is it flat out racism that makes President Obama the target out of all of these nations? And does Bibi not hear it every time the United Nations refers to Israel’s aggression? As I read, they went through Bibi and his Republican buddies’ shameful passel of miss-statements about what a United States/Iran plan would do to the world; it dawned on me that what they fear is NOT that an agreement with Iran will lead to war, which they and others profit from either financially and/or politically. What Bibi and Congressional Republicans actually fear is that the Obama/Khamenei plan will NOT lead to war, which is profitable for them and for others. Sadly, from my point of view, Netanyahu threatened the right wing of his country by fear-mongering and hard talk, promising that if elected, unlike his opponent Herzog, there would be no Two State Solution. And they went for it; giving him and the Lekud Party the lead, and giving me an anxiety attack. I fear for the safety of Israel. 

The following is from the Guardian 3/18/2015:
“Binyamin Netanyahu’s rightwing Likud party has scored a dramatic victory in Israel’s election, surging past its main rival, the centre-left Zionist Union, to win most seats in the Knesset. Despite the scale of his win, Netanyahu’s victory is likely to carry heavy political and diplomatic costs for  Israel, as he swerved sharply right in his efforts to attract an increasingly hardline vote taken largely from pro-settlement nationalist and religious parties.”  


                      Together they’re Tripple Trouble

When Obama successfully creates a working program with Iran that contains all the pieces of the puzzle needed to make it a great deal, and we have some peaceful times, how can the Republicans keep running their rude racist game with the smarter, classier, more graceful man who occupies the White House? Will they still feel entitled to act like frat boys? Or will their rage at anything progressive in nature lead them to keep humiliating themselves publicly? Then there’s their addiction to power and big bucks. I swear, they become more and more like the meanest-spirited Republican of all time, Dick Cheney. Clearly, it seems that they’ve taken an eye off their own political futures, and it’s likely they’ll wind up selling pieces of themselves to the highest bidders. What might these mean people come up with next to further taint America? I for one will keep rooting for our President to continue working for a beautiful peace. Mitch McConnell, according to Mitch McConnell, signed ‘the letter’ in a hurry so as to get out of DC before a snow storm, so perhaps he did not totally understand the letter. I seriously doubt that, and he didn’t seem to improve his case by defending it on Sunday talk.

What We Can Do:

  1. Pay attention to the noise that comes out of Congress and see if they have America’s interests as their priority, or if they are just ideologues or haters or even TRAITORS or racists.
  2. Take the time you need to gauge your Senators and Representatives to see if they are doing the job they said they would do if you voted for them.
  3. It’s always good to look on their websites www.senate.gov and www.house.gov and to let them know what you want, and how they are doing from your point of view.
  4. It’s also great to get in touch with your Senators and Representatives to say thank you now and then.
  5. Take stock of how up-to-date you are on the news, not to get hooked like I am, but because these are crazy times.
  6. Please, please speak out against any mean-spiritedness and bullying perpetrated by rabid Republicans and ask them to stop it, carry on real conversations, and begin to bring some modicum of respect back to their offices so that they will not further diminish the stature of both houses and the country before they become a punch line for foreign late night television. 

I Had My Own Dream

I have a dream that those who oppose Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dreams of justice, integrity, and equal rights for all, and his love of humanity and the earth, feel threatened and so were rankled by President Obama’s beautiful speech. This cadre of full time, right-wing professional Obama-haters try to inject their nonsense into our country's psyche. Their obsession with 'getting' the Black President, who presumes to govern because we elected him twice, has led them to become TRAITORS to their country, the precepts of our founding fathers, and even to the founders of their own party. If ghosts existed, I’m sure the Ghost of Good Republicans Past would haunt them all – from the old, bitter guys like John McCain, to freshmen like the semi-articulate Tom Cotton, who delivered a flawed civics lesson with enough lies and mistakes to garner a C- on a 6th grade pop quiz. 

So, here are some wise words from Republican President Dwight David Eisenhower, who, were he still alive, might wish to say a thing or two to the current crop of right-wing haters. Let's start with voting rights: “Any time we deny any citizen the full exercise of his constitutional rights, we are weakening our own claim to them.” What might he say about the 47 Republicans' letter?: “Whatever America hopes to bring to pass in the world must first come to pass in the heart of America.” So, bring it on Mitch and Mr. Speaker, newbies who fancy yourselves smarter than President Obama. Here’s another quote for you: ”I hope I shall follow firmness of virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles – the character of an honest man.” That is from George Washington! Let’s face it GOP, it’s way too late for that. Here's what Eisenhower might have to say about an agreement with Iran over nuclear weapons and peace: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed.” He was a Republican who knew something about Principles: “A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both." And finally, he said, “I think that people want peace so much that one of these days, government had better get out of their way, and let them have it.” Funny, all of these quotes align perfectly with President Obama’s thinking and policies. I’m pretty sure Eisenhower and Martin Luther King, Jr., and Obama would have been good friends.