Week 43: Happy anniversary Resistance!

Oh how cocky we all were one year ago today. Richard Sherman cocky. Cher cocky. Oh hell we were Prince cocky.

To add insult to shitshow, it really felt like we had to deal with this anniversary twice — on election day yesterday and today, the actual anniversary of that fucker of a day. I had a little PTSD yesterday when I went to vote. Then I cautiously texted a few political junkies, creeping toward the acknowledgement. Had no intention on turning CNN. But then the polls closed in Virginia and I gave Jake Tapper the side eye just out of curiousity. It went uphill from there.

I’m handling things pretty well today (thank you, Virginia!). Started by hitting it head-on with my Facebook memories. Oy. I’m sure your timeline looked similar:

And here we are, one year later.

In that year, I’ve worn my HRC T-shirt likely an inappropriate number of days. I’ve spent much less time with my Trump-loving Dad than I should have (my mom died three months before the election). I’ve started a feminist book club. I’ve met more local candidates than I did the first 49 years of my life combined. I’ve been to at least one political meeting a month, often more. I’ve stayed home and watched “Veep” with a bottle of wine when I just couldn’t. I’ve taken up a Twitter habit that may be affecting my mental health. I walked in the Women’s March in Austin. I still slightly jump at the regular “what fresh hell is this” news alerts about this administration. I have forgiven Nate Silver. I’ve said shitshow 1.187 million times. I have donated to candidates I can vote for in 2018 — and those I can’t. I survive some days because of a text group with three friends called “Love & Resistance” that talks about the latter probably 80% of the time. I’ve shaken the hand of Van Jones.

And I started this blog. Not bad, considering I spent the two days post-election crying on the couch with pie.

I had no idea what I’d do today. Then a call from one of my favorite local candidates — Colin Allred, who is going to replace U.S. Rep Pete Sessions in 2018 — spurred me into action. I’m honoring this one-year anniversary of the 2016 election by donating to some of my favorite progressive candidates. Support headed your way Colin, along with Beto O’RourkeBrandy K Chambers for Texas House Representative District 112Kendall Scudder for Texas Senate, and Jana Lynne Sanchez for US Congress. Some of these people I can actually vote for, some I can’t. But they all end up representing me in some way so I’m all in. (Want to really make a difference in the campaigns of your favorite candidates? Set up a recurring donation to help get them through to the 2018 election in one year.)

Tonight, I am going to eat some pie. But with a plate and at the kitchen table this time. Because while I may not be Prince cocky yet, I’m definitely Angela Merkel cocky. And that’ll more than do on this day.

So Happy anniversary Resistance! We didn’t ask for this job, but we are most definitely kicking ass at it.

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Week 40: So Donald Trump Jr. was on my plane yesterday

I’ve been pondering this post for at least a month, since I started reading Hillary Clinton’s “What Happened.” Yesterday, I boarded a flight from La Guardia to Dallas with Donald Trump Jr. on board — a flight I boarded carrying said book. So it seems fate is forcing my hand.

Screen Shot 2017-10-24 at 5.52.50 PMI so passionately started this blog in the days after Trump Sr.’s election. It kept me off the booze and couch (mostly) for months. I lost my mojo this summer though, for a variety of reasons.

  • Summer brought my boys home (one after his sophomore year in college, the other about to start his senior year in high school — both distracting in good and bad ways).
  • I got lost this summer as the one-year anniversary of my mom’s death, August 17, crawled toward me, just a few days after I turned 50. Maybe the latter bothered me more than I thought. Who knows. I was in a never-ending loop of what we were doing last summer until the anniversary finally passed. If the grieving isn’t over, the oppressive weight of it seems to be.
  • I got overwhelmed by the shitshow. The news alerts on my phone seemed to come more frequently. Watching Veep with my husband was more therapeutic than writing. Writing requires processing. I stopped being able to process what was going on in DC and, just as often, in Austin.
  • I got lazy. I felt an overwhelming desire to prepare for battle last November. Being overwhelmed and distracted — plus 100-degree summer days — made it easier to go soft. I mean that physically and mentally. I’ve spent the last five months eating whatever I wanted while spending way more time on Twitter and Facebook than in the gym.

I feel the battle resolve rising again, helped along, I’m sure, by HRC’s book. I’m just off — and hopefully on the right track after — an incredibly stressful six weeks with my kids. I’ve spent the last few days with my sister-from-another-mother and her amazing wife, watching fall arrive in upstate New York, drinking apple cider, and sleeping more soundly than I thought I was still capable of.

Before I boarded my flight, I grabbed a green smoothie. I made a gym date with myself on my calendar. I pulled “What Happened” out of my suitcase in case it got gate-checked (it did) and was about to board the plane when Trump Jr. was spotted.

“Can we take another plane?” the guy next to me said.

I gripped my book. I texted my husband and some friends. I took a little video as I boarded. Yep. That’s him.

Screen Shot 2017-10-24 at 6.10.01 PMThe novelty wore off as I sat in the back of the plane, Trump Jr. (who apparently is in town for this speech — which press must pay $5,000 to attend??) in the front, in “comfort” class but not first. I was surprisingly angry to be sharing canned oxygen with this man. It was a small plane with 72 passengers. He walked by me to pee. I’m sure the eye contact we had (twice) isn’t unusual for him. Surely he meets many stern stares as he travels around, backing up his father’s lies.

The anger is once again coming to the surface. And it needs to. Productive anger … not tweeting/texting/bitching anger. I’ve taken several productive steps recently, which I’ll share here in the coming weeks.

Here is a synopsis of Trump Jr.’s speech today. Trump Sr. is also headed to Dallas this week. I’ve heard rumors of protests, so I’m staying tuned. It’s all just too close for comfort. A friend asked recently when our “bridge moment” would come — and how we would react. One year ago, I couldn’t have imagined we’d need one.

This man on my plane and his family require we be ready. Drink your green smoothies. Hit that treadmill. We need to be strong. Do something about this shitshow instead of just talking about it. Or if you can’t — like I couldn’t for the past several months — I’ll do it for you until you can. We have to stand together in this marathon. Who was it who said we were stronger together? 😊

 

 

Week 33: Sure you’re mad, but are you donating?

If you’ve ever been a part of a volunteer-based organization or church, you are well versed in the “time, talent, treasure” pitch. It’s some summary of a few Bible verses, as best I can tell. I’m tempted to check with God to see if we can add Twitter to the mix, so I’ll let you now how that goes. If we can, I assure you I Am Killing It.

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So today, we’re going to talk about the treasure part. It’s the last day of the month and it seems, from the emails and social media posts, that candidates for the 2018 election have monthly fundraising goals they need to meet.

So who are you sending money to?

I won’t suggest specific people, because you likely have your own favorites wherever you live. But I’ll tell you who I’m giving money to. They are divided into two categories: People I can vote for and people I can’t vote for.

So far, the two most important elections in my voting purview are the people running against U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions and U.S. Senator Ted Cruz. I’m also watching to see who runs against Texas Governor Greg Abbott and, crucially, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, aka, the Trump of Texas. But for now, we’ll focus on Sessions and Cruz, bringing me to Colin Allred and Beto O’Rourke:

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Colin Allred goes to my church and seems to be the frontrunner challenging U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions. So I ❤️ him.
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Sen. Ted Cruz. Need I say more? Beto O’Rourke has lots of energy behind him. So I’m adding to it.

So those are easy. These people directly affect my district. That’s the best case of how we did politics before November 8. But now we know differently. Now we know we have to be strategic and care about more than our specific districts and interests. So who can you support that you can’t vote for? I pick these two — both running in districts close to mine and both with a personal connection. They are Brandy K. Chambers and Jana Lynne Sanchez.

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Brandy and I bonded on politics shortly after we both married into our husband’s family. She’s married to my husband’s cousin and we shared multiple margaritas shortly after Trump’s election. She’s a busy working mom, like many of us. She is the primary breadwinner in her family. She decided after Trump’s election that she had no choice but to figure out how to do all that and run for office.  
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Jana and I connected in one of the million Pantsuit FB groups shortly after the election. She noticed we shared a hometown and quickly figured out we went to the same high school. She is out there every day doing good for the progressive party in rural Texas. And yes, that’s as difficult as it sounds.

So, who’s on your list? Shoot them a few bucks before you bust out the long weekend beer and burgers. Because, democracy.

Week 32: Get back out there. Really. Go!

Lately I’ve spent more time reading about the Trump shitshow than I have doing anything about it. I am paralyzed by my two U.S. senators — Ted Cruz and John Cornyn of the 13-white-guys-deciding-America’s-health-care fame — and feel nothing I do will reach them. So I just keep reading about what they’re doing. Yes, I need to be informed. But Jesus I need to put the iPhone down, turn off CNN, and shut down the Twitter IV.

My freelance editing/writing job is the best thing ever. Decades into it, I seriously wonder sometimes if I HAD to dress like a big girl and be somewhere by even 9 am every day whether I could actually do it. It looks exhausting.

That said, here’s the downside: I’m the boss of me. Which means nobody knows if I read Twitter all day. I don’t. I mean really, I don’t. Seriously. I do other things. Stop judging. You don’t know me.

OK I do.

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That’s Julián Castro behind me. 

Let’s move on. So this week I got out and did what all we STILL shellshocked progressives need to do, IMHO: Get out and be with your people in a setting that matters. Yes, going out with your HRC-loving girlfriends is good stuff. But go to a political event with them. Or without them. These events feel like actual movement, not just paralyzed panic.

I joined a like-minded friend to attend the Park Cities Democratic Women’s Association fundraiser for Colin Allred (who is running for Pete Sessions’ seat) with special guest Secretary Julián Castro. (As an aside, there was talk of Castro running for president in 2020, which is the only reason I’d forgive him for not taking on Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in 2018.)

Here’s what you get by attending such an event:

• You meet the actual people getting shit done. We can’t all run for office. We don’t all have magazine-worthy homes and rich friends making us the perfect hostess. We don’t all have $2,500 to go to such an event. I had $100, the cheapest ticket. But I got to be with the people doing all this other cool stuff.

• You’ll realize you’re more connected than you think. I ran into a few people I know, even though this fundraiser was across town and several paygrades from my ‘hood. So one of those people was the caterer (OK, Chad Houser is way more than a caterer, but you get my point). When you get out there, you realize you are so very much not alone — even in one of the richest, most conservative neighborhoods in Texas. Twitter doesn’t have that same feel to me.

• You actually work toward the day when Donald J. Trump and his people are no longer running our country. And isn’t that why any of us ever get out of bed anymore?

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These Democrats were strangers to me when I walked in. Now I ❤️ them.

So GO! There are many cheap or free or expensive events going on wherever you are. I promise you. And report back — here and on your social media networks. Because somebody is dying at the hands of the Twitter IV and needs a push off the couch.

I leave you with the inspiring words of my local politics fangirl crush Colin Allred, who goes to my church and is running against U.S. Rep Pete Sessions (who helped write the healthcare shitshow making its way through the Senate right now). Colin is running in my district so my support has a direct benefit to his campaign … and a direct screw you to Sessions. This Sunday, I’m going to a fundraiser of someone I can’t vote for simply because she’s a progressive and needs support. But we’ll talk more about that next week.

So here’s Colin, whom I hope will be moving in to Sessions’ office in January of 2019. Please baby Jesus let it be so.

 

 

Week 26 & 27: The failing media says #ThanksTrump

You will be shocked to know I don’t pay the bills with this blog. Honestly, my husband covers most of our bills. Banker vs. writer is just never going to be fair when the cash hits the bank account.

So my paying job is mostly as senior editor for INMA (the International News Media Association). I started working for INMA when I was pregnant with my now college junior — almost exactly 20 years ago. I segment my time with this global media trade organization like this:

  1. 1997-2004 (or so): The Profitable Status Quo Years: Interesting enough. Media is my industry. Newspapers were doing what they were doing. Nothing to see here.
  2. 2008-2016: The Scrappy Years (I returned after a little break and just as my banker husband got laid off so, basically, the writer/editor saves the day): The recession knocked everyone on their asses. Combine digital + recession and newspapers were ditching budget items faster than banks. So much fun. Newspapers had to reinvent themselves in a million ways. Like a meth addict, management had to hit rock bottom to figure out what really mattered and how to get it done. Some companies didn’t make it. Those that did are innovative AF. Not perfect, but figuring it out.
  3. 2016-??: The Trump Years. This may be my favorite. Yes, The Scrappy Years saw lots of innovation in technology, focus on audience and digital, understanding that content was our unique selling point. But two things have happened since Trump’s election (and somewhat during his campaign): Real journalists have found their voices. And Trump’s #fakenews claims have made those of us interested in holding onto our democracy realize how important a free and trusted press is in that process. Paid subscriptions are up because the American people realize — finally! — that journalism is a big part of what stands between us and some crazy African dictator. And, as I said, many journalists are living up to that job description.

I spent 10 days recently at the INMA World Congress in New York City. Thanks to the 100+ hours I worked and 10 hours of sleep I got (I exaggerate slightly on the latter), I’m jazzed all over again about The Trump Years. I say “years” not necessarily because I think he’ll be president for years. But I do think he’s fundamentally changed journalism — at least for the foreseeable future.

Forgive the insider baseball I’m about to lay on you. But this is good stuff to know as a media consumer. Part of the World Congress involved two days of study tours. Every media entity we visited in New York mentioned Trump in some context. One media company called it the “Trump Effect.” Others used similar phrases when explaining the various reasons for an uptick in their 2016 success. We heard about lots of “Trump Effect” wins at the conference:

  • Vanity Fair saw an increase of 13,000 subscribers and 10,000 Twitter followers in ONE day when @realDonaldTrump tweeted his displeasure with the magazine.
  • The “failing New York Times” added 276,000 new digital subscriptions after the election.
  • The Wall Street Journal’s subscriber volume increased 300% the day after the election, proving this isn’t just a liberal/conservative thing.
  • Between the November elections and the end of January, subscriptions at The New Yorker increased 250%.
  • The Atlantic, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, and The Guardian all set subscription records during that time frame, as well.
  • ProPublica’s donor list surged from 3,500 in 2015 to 26,000 in 2016, due in great part to “Last Week Tonight” host John Oliver’s mention of it shortly after the November election.
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Why does Trump think the MSM hates him? 🙂

The CEO of INMA is Earl Wilkinson. Earl and I go way back to our college days. We met at a newspaper in East Texas when I was there for my summer internship. The newspaper had a “Women’s News” section. I’m old, but this was jacked up even by 1988 standards. Earl and I have come a long way from our East Texas days.

Earl described Trump as the “elephant in the room” as he wrapped up the conference, asking: “Where were you, last November, when you finally figured out, ‘Oh my goodness. This guy is going to be the president of the United States?'” Earl was in South Africa. I was in my living room in Dallas, wide-eyed and drooling in front of CNN, when he called. I’m not sure we got much past WTF, but it was therapeutic.

Fast forward five months:

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Earl giving his closing presentation.

“Of all the things I never thought I’d say,” Earl said in front of a crowd of 400+ international news media executives, “is … Donald J. Trump: Journalism savior. Didn’t see that one coming. Could this guy have allowed us to get our mojo back?”

One zinger from Earl’s speech, though: As unpopular as Trump is today, he’s more popular than news media.

Ouch.

I agree with Earl. MSM (as Trump likes to call us when he’s throwing shade our way) is better because of Donald Trump. It was a nice break to luxuriate at this conference in the that fact my industry is killing it right now with hundreds of people who love journalism as much as I do. The dream? At the end of all this, there is no President Trump. There is no Fox News With An Agenda. Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh are irrelevant. But I’ll settle for journalism kicking ass old-school. And people valuing it enough to pay for it.

Next year, INMA’s conference will be in Washington, D.C. “I kind of hope he’s still in office,” Earl said in his presentation. “But you never know.”

Regardless, The Trump Years have their benefits. Remembering that keeps me off the tequila shots while watching Jake Tapper in the afternoons.

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Week 25: How I became a local political fangirl

I was gutted to learn this week that Texas hasn’t elected a Democratic statewide in 23 years. Twenty. Three. That was 1994 (in case you find #thestruggleisreal with math, like I do). The genocide in Rwanda took place that year. OJ Simpson was fleeing in his white Bronco. Lisa Marie Presley married Michael Jackson. Kurt Cobain killed himself. Forrest Gump and Pulp Fiction were released. Friends debuted. FRIENDS.

Fellow Baylor alum Bob Bullock was the last Dem to win a statewide election when he was elected to his second term as lieutenant governor in 1994. Rick Perry replaced him (so that’s where that shitshow started). I was an entirely different person in 1994 — not married, no kids, living in Florida, likely still a half-ass Republican from my parents’ Reagan days, preparing for a six-month backpacking trip through Europe.

Screen Shot 2017-05-09 at 2.16.22 PMNow here we are in 2017, with Trump having beat HRC by just nine points in Texas. This is a great snapshot from Texas Tribune of the current political situation in my bleeding red state.

So … where do we begin? Because, so sadly, my 24/7 Twitter/Van Jones/cocktail habit isn’t fixing this.

All that red up there is a tad overwhelming, so here’s where I’m starting: Pete Sessions. U.S. Rep. Sessions represents my 32nd congressional district. Before November 9, I knew him only by his conservative-looking signage (you can just tell, right?). After this town hall meeting, he is my obsession. Lately, he’s been making national headlines in his position of chairman of the House Rules Committee (making him a vital player in the Trumpcare vote). He was UNOPPOSED BY A DEMOCRAT (this makes me want to vomit) in 2016, yet won by just over 70%. More interestingly, my gerrymandered district went for HRC.

Instant target, which is why stuff like this is happening:

Confession: I didn’t get the whole “all politics is local” deal until November 9. The presidency and SCOTUS and big social battles are just so sexy. I have never been able to get enough. How can I be bothered with the ins and outs of local politics and potholes and zoning and teacher evaluations when climate change and gay rights and women’s rights and black lives were at stake?

November 9 was my “duh” moment. When everything generally is going your way (read: Obama), maybe you can ignore the local stuff. I couldn’t be bothered to care about Pete Sessions (of course I voted against him, but that ended my activism). And I get zero credit for knowing Ted Cruz was a scary douche because that’s pretty much institutional knowledge globally now, right? But when Trump happens, all that stands between  you and the shitshow is local politics.

Last weekend, we had local elections here in Dallas. Suddenly, our local city council and school board elections were sexy AF. I waited until I walked into the voting booth to decide my school board vote … finally understanding what it felt like to be an undecided voter. Now, I will never be able to translate that feeling to the presidency (I just want to bitch slap those focus groups every four years), but I got a glimpse.

Suddenly, I was trying to ferret out which city council member would stand strong against Austin and DC against sanctuary cities and baffling “bathroom bills.” Should party play a race in a city council election? Apparently it’s not supposed to because ours are non-partisan. But one guy seemed pretty conservative, nice though I hear he is, and this is no time to risk that.

Same with the school board. One candidate said the other supported vouchers (he denied it in a flurry of nice cardstock flyers crammed in my mailbox). So voting for him felt like voting for Betsy DeVos. And then there’s that damn bathroom bill deal again. If DC and Austin are going to send shit to us, we need local people who will fight them.

Suffice it to say, caring about local politics is exhausting. But ain’t nobody got time for the alternative.

Enter my fangirl crush. Just when I was getting distracted by LIFE, about to lose my #StayWoke status, in walks Colin Allred. Literally, into my church. This guy. Look. At. Him. I mean … Listen. To. Him. (Synopsis: Grew up with single-mom, Baylor grad, former NFL football player, civil rights attorney, worked with Obama.)

Now, Allred isn’t he only guy running. Another District 32 friend is watching Ed Meier, who worked on HRC’s transition team. He sounds awesome. (Obviously Allred and Meier are’t women, which isn’t our post-HRC-consciousness ideal. But baby steps here in Texas people. Check that map again.)

My first conversation with Allred at church went something like this: “Hi, I’m Dawn McMullan and I love you and I hate Pete Sessions and please beat Pete Sessions because Trump and pussy grabbing and shitshow and transgender bathrooms and wow that smile and I went to Baylor too and football and Hillary and Russians and OMG that town hall and oh welcome to Greenland Hills and Jesus.”

Something like that. Then, more composed post-sermon, I walked up to his wife and introduced myself in a more godly way.

So, clearly, at first blush I have to go with Allred, my fellow Baylor Bear and the guy who sits a few rows back in the pew on Sundays. (Funny story, Pete Sessions used to sit in our pews, too). But I’m thrilled Meier is in the race. And I suspect there will be others. Allred and Meier went on the Twitter offensive after the Trumpcare 2.0 for last week. Let me remind you: Sessions ran UNOPPOSED BY A DEMOCRAT last November. I can’t roll my eyes back enough to display my disgust at that.

Part of that is my bad. But unopposed and disinterested we are no more. #ThanksTrump.

 

 

 

Week 22 & 23 & 24: We all need a freaking break

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I’m a late with this post, with nothing to report but a break. I spent a blissful 14 days traveling to the Democratic Republic of Congo and London. London is obviously blissful. But to enjoy the DRC — with its lack of any respect for women, shocking poverty, painfully corrupt government, as well as its unpredictable electricity and running indoor water — one must’ve been tortured by many weeks of “what fresh hell is this,” aka, Trump.

Back to my CNN obsession and constant anxiety this week, well rested and with fresh perspective. I highly recommend this respite from all news Trump. It does a human soul good.

 

Week 21: I refuse to be America first

I write this from Kigali, Rwanda, where I have a five-hour layover on my way to Bukavu, DRC. This week and next, I take my resistance global. I will not give in to Donald Trump and his “America first” bullshit.

Remember when we used to have passions other than American politics? When we had the space to fight for other’s rights instead of revisiting our previously won battles? Pre-November 9, my passion was Congo Restoration. I’ve been involved in this NGO in Eastern Congo for seven years. This week, I will attend the graduation of 40 of our sewing school students and visit with the 30 orphans we help take care of. You know, helping people other than ourselves — the way my country and my faith (at its best) have led me to do.

It feels good to be here. It feels empowering to be here. Because I always get more than I give from this kind of work. And I’ll be honest, my giving fuel tank is running low these days. I could use a refill. I think we all could. I have a friend who shaved her head yesterday to raise funds and awareness for children’s cancer. Another is spearheading a project in South Dallas to help train people in need of a skill and a job the ins and outs of solar energy.

The world goes on, as it will. But continuing our pre-Trump passion helps undo some of the damage he’s doing. And raises a big and satisfying middle finger to the current powers that be.

More from Africa next week. Carry on, friends!

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Week 20: Fighting for equality … again

June 26, 2015, was the best day ever, as my 17-year-old son would say. That was the burden-lifting day the SCOTUS declared the 14th Amendment required same-sex marriage equality the law of our great land.

I was stunned. I’d been sporting this beautiful necklace for a long time. And then it was just done. I mean, not done done. The legal stuff was done. The bigotry continued, but didn’t it seem like a case of just needing the old bigots to die out? That said — I keep having to say this! — we obviously were headed down the right side of history.

Screen Shot 2017-03-27 at 10.55.45 PMI kinda thought we’d won this battle. It was such a huge step. It was a right-side-of-history step. That was good enough. So I took the necklace off. I ran across it at some point last year and was a little sad. Because I really love this necklace and a sweet friend from church made it.

But what’s an activist to do? We’d won the battle. Onto other things. Right side of history things.

Until the universe handed us a huge fucking dose of JK on November 8.

So today, I’m putting the necklace back on. And what I’ve woke to in the past 20 weeks since Trump was elected (that number shocks me every single week) is that I never should’ve taken it off. I was boxing in this necklace and it’s movement.

My LGBTQ friends didn’t get equality on June 25, 2015. They got the access to equality. Just like women didn’t get equality with the 19th Amendment on April 18, 1920. And African-American (men) didn’t get equality with the 15th Amendment on March 30, 1870. And African-American men and women still didn’t get equality with the Voting Rights Act on August 6, 1965. They got access to equality. Same with slaves after the 13th Amendment was ratified on December 6, 1865. Access to equality. Better than slavery. Better than three-fifths. Not equal to non-slaves.

I do not mean to in any way belittle the importance of any of these votes or dates. They are lifeblood to equality. But they are not the end of the fight for equality.

On Saturday, I head to the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the equality we have here is something women/gays there could not even imagine. In every possible way, it is clear when you are in Congo that worldwide equality is not a thing. It is clear that “woman” and “work animal” are interchangeable in many societies. It is clear that if women there had an education and birth control, they would have access to equality. I help run a sewing school that gives 40 women every eight months access to equality they have never known.

Yes, difference cultures. But it has become clear to me that I was willing to gloss over a number of inequalities my own country before November 8. Because we had access to and were getting there.

Fuck. That.

Yes, some of our inequality battles are cultural. But some are not. Equal pay should not be cultural. Our right to an legal abortion should not be cultural. Marriage should not be cultural. Human rights should not be cultural. We are not three-fifths US citizen or 80% a US citizen.

I wrote an pissy and tearful post on Facebook the day after the election. In the face of “get over it” and “snowflake” and some religious right bullshit, I wrote that this is what I was fighting for with my HRC vote: “Inclusiveness, opportunities for all Americans (and those who come to us from troubled lands), love of our country and planet, safety, and religious, press, and personal freedom.”

Equality. Legally. Culturally. That (in the MLK and Urban Dictionary sense) is the dream.

 

 

Week 19: Pete Sessions is right — we should listen

I didn’t call my U.S. representative today about the GOP healthcare bill, despite the many email urgings I’ve received on the topic. Rep. Pete Sessions, as chair of the House Rules Committee, helped write the damn thing. We must use our energy where it might make a difference, and calling his office isn’t it going to, IMHO. I’ll tweet my condolences instead.

I did, however, spend some time with Mr. Sessions over the weekend. After taking the previous week off to spend spring break with my family, I had a personal #WokeSaturday and caught up on all things political. I started the day at a breakfast/town hall meeting in downtown Dallas with State Senator (and Democrat) Royce West. I learned a lot and will get to that in later post. It was like getting together with your BFFs — all in agreement, inside jokes (although we were all strangers), and bacon. What’s not to love?

I left that town hall early to get to the Sessions’ gathering 20 minutes north. Although it was supposed to start at 12:30 pm, it was suggested we arrive at 11 am to make sure we got a seat (even if we’d RSVPed and were in his district; check and check). A friend and I got there about 11:30 — with our usual snowflake gear of protest signs and Starbucks — and joined the very long line that went around the local high school.

I’ve seen signs for Pete Sessions around my neighborhood for years. I knew he was a Republican. That about ends my involvement with my U.S. representative before November 9. I didn’t know Sessions, chairman of the U.S. House Rules committee, was one of the main authors of the Trumpcare (we’re going to call it that because I’m convinced we’re still having this discussion because of the Obamacare nickname).

I was appalled to learn at some point in the last few months that Sessions, who has been in office for two decades, was not opposed by a Democratic in November 2016. NOT. OPPOSED. Unopposed by someone of a major party, Sessions won just 71.1% of his district — a district that voted for HRC in November. Apparently, that won’t happen again in 2018.

Yes, we’re in Texas. But I don’t think the man should be cocky.

My immediate response to Mr. Sessions was one of empathy. During the almost two-hour town hall, he faced a hostile audience that was clearly against everything he came to say and was in little mood to listen. He lost me with a few snarky statements:

“Everybody in here should be proud of themselves for coming today. I want you to be proud of me that we agreed to do this.” What? After weeks of pressure you showed up … um … to do your job?

“The media will have its story to tell about this,” or something sort of like that. The journalist in me requires I admit I couldn’t find video to back this quote up. But it felt like a threat, like something I’ve said to my boys as they walked out the door with the car keys on a Friday night: “Make good choices because I’m not bailing you out of jail.” Sessions actually wagged his finger at us at times.

“It’s obvious to me that if we continue this, no member of Congress will want to meet with people,” hand on hip, statement followed by disapproving shake of his head, an all-knowing nod of his head, and a motion to the PPT person to get to the next slide. The crowd — myself included — reminded him who hired whom: “Do your job!”

“You know what? I now understand why you’re so frustrated. You don’t know how to listen.” I’ve used this tone — probably over spring break — with my teenagers. Doesn’t work with them either, but at least the chain of command is understood.

Another interesting fact he shared: All the benefits of Obamacare will stay in effect for two years (or would have if Trumpcare had passed today). Interesting, that gets us through the 2018 mid-terms. Coincidence?

Sessions started with PowerPoints, which were intended to connect the ACA to slow economic growth in the U.S. He planned this smartly, knowing he wouldn’t be able to talk above the crowd. He wanted to be heard and knew this crowd wasn’t going to let him talk much. He was right. So he used the PowerPoints, a microphone, and questions that came only in written format (either emailed in or written as people signed into the event). There was no back and forth, and perhaps a forum of 2,000 mostly angry people isn’t the right forum for that anyway.

Regardless, he wanted to be heard. He was not there to listen.

I would say the same about the crowd, which launched into a few cringe-worthy chants, including, “This plan sucks.” They wanted to be heard. And this forum allowed no respectful way to be heard. I started out embarrassed by the yelling. By the end, my throat was sore from joining in.

I was there primarily to listen and observe. But yes, I — and close to 2,000 others — also wanted to be heard. It’s hard to listen when you know you won’t be heard.

I wanted to know whether Sessions would force the issue on Trump’s tax returns — and have him hear my thoughts on the subject. When the question was asked (via email),  I cheered and held up my “AGREE” sign. Sessions paused for an uncomfortable amount of time. The crowd soon began asking “Yes or no?” Twenty-four seconds later, Sessions had this answer: “The president and vice president … [crowd interrupts] … the president and the vice president, as is required by law, are being audited as we speak [crowd loses its mind, then another awkward pause] … and I would expect that they will release the same information that any other president has ever released.”

That didn’t answer the question. So we chanted, “Answer the question.” Multiple times.

Other moments from the town hall:

• It opened with a woman who opposed Trumpcare at the microphone. Applause.

• Sessions doesn’t think we need to build a wall through Big Bend National Park. Applause.

• He wants to increase funding to NIH. Applause.

• Meals on Wheels should not — and will not — be defunded. Applause.

• Unemployed people will get tax credits under Trumpcare. And he’s disappointed you would be “mean” enough to ask.

• Solid no on marijuana. Boos. And, he wanted us to know, he’s never smoked pot.

• Sessions pinned his support for school vouchers on disabled students, understandably so (one of his sons has Down Syndrome).

• Sanctuary cities will be defunded. Boos.

• Russia interference with our elections? “No credible evidence.” Seriously?

• Veterans who have previously been deemed unable to get a gun (missing an eye or suffering a brain injury) now can go through a process to allow them to do so, allowing them to hunt and fish with their buddies. Makes some sense. Crowd wasn’t overly reactive either way.

• What does Sessions think about Trump’s “incessant lying” and Steve Bannon’s appointment: “My answer is even Fox News is able to question that what the president says and has vetted it pretty well. And at some point, I don’t write his speeches. And I think it’s intuitively obvious to the most casual observer when things are not right. That’s part of what the media does when they talk about credible evidence or lack thereof.”

Um, what was the answer to that question?

“What do YOU say?” the crowd chanted.

• When asked an over-the-top question about elderly genocide with Trumpcare, Sessions had this answer: “We are going to make the changes. We are going to pass the bill. And we’re going to appeal Obamacare.” Crowd loses mind, then chants “Vote him out!” That was a little awkward but dude, read the crowd. Listen. Respond like a human being.

• Sessions doesn’t think Scott Pruitt’s drastic EPA cuts are necessary or will fly. Applause. (But the EPA shouldn’t issue its own rules and regulations. Boos.)

Here are a few things I learned from reading up about the event and Mr. Sessions after the fact:

• Sessions represents 800,000 people in his gerrymandered district; 2,000+ of them showed up on Saturday and 600 people submitted questions.

• Sessions staffers described this as one of the “most contentious” town halls the representative has ever held.

• Sessions and his wife created this homespun video promoting “The World’s Greatest Healthcare Plan.” Let’s ignore that name and listen in:

I wondered if this was an anomaly. A friend, who has been politically active for years on the local and national level, describes Sessions’ previous town halls like this: “He was horrible, always rude and condescending to anyone who dared to ask a question he disagreed with. He even made fun of people. Of course the progressives weren’t the majority so he would encourage conservatives in the crowd. Horrible experience.”

I’m new at this, but I offer some advice for you, Mr. Sessions:

Talk to me like we are equals. Now, you may do that in person and this was a loud and opinionated crowd. But start out by telling me you are on Obamacare (which Congress has been required to be since January 2014). You say two of the best hospitals in Dallas aren’t on your plan? Tell me more about how this affects you as the father of two sons, one with special needs.

Talk to me. Don’t PowerPoint at me. Don’t shame me.

And I will do the same. Because everyone wants to be heard. And we all need to listen. Maybe you learned that lesson today on the House floor.