Dear Ron

1/8/21

Dear Ron Johnson,

I read your pathetic excuse of a press release, the one in which you try to make yourself appear morally upstanding about reversing your position on accepting the results of the electoral college, and I must admit I was not impressed. Changing your vote at the last minute after the Capitol was stormed, while defending what you really wanted to do and say is hypocrisy (and a weak attempt at self-preservation) at its best. You have been an apologist for Donald Trump for four years. You stood up for him, defended him for his entire term, and supported him in his lies and false claims about election fraud. You don’t get to suddenly try to stand apart and try to act sorrowful about the attack on the Capitol when you are one of the ones responsible for it happening. You have blood on your hands and a stain on your soul.

I have some nitpicking to do about your press release.

You started it with this: “I refuse to dismiss the legitimate concerns of tens of millions of Americans who have lost faith in our institutions and the fairness of our electoral process.” I ask you–what about the tens of millions who have lost faith in the Republican party and who do have faith in our electoral system? You are so partisan you only see one side of the issue, and based on the responses (and lack of responses) Wisconsin citizens have gotten (or not) from you from phone calls and e-mails, it seems you are perfectly fine with dismissing the legitimate concerns of your constituents, the people you were elected to represent, while kowtowing to conspiracy theorists, QAnon adherents, and miscellaneous other far-right-wing fanatics. You don’t care about any of us unless we stand with you politically, though you were elected to represent all of Wisconsin.

I also take issue with your characterization of the F. B. I. as corrupt simply because they conducted a legitimate investigation into Russian election interference. If you were truly concerned about election integrity you would have backed this investigation.

Your comment about the “grossly biased media that has chosen sides and uses its power to interfere in our politics” is both laughable and shockingly naïve. You realize media is plural, right? There are hundreds upon hundreds of media sources in this country. Which powerful media are you referring to here? Fox News? Breitbart? Daily Caller? Drudge Report? Newsmax? OANN? Washington Times? National Review? All of the Sinclair Broadcasting group? All of Rupert Murdoch’s holdings? Or are you only concerned about CNN, the New York Times, Washington Post, and other media that don’t broadcast only right-wing ideology? Do you know your history? Do you know that politicians and their supporters have historically founded newspapers and other media? Why do you think that papers were given names like the Republican Journal, the Democrat, the Independent? The idea of an independent, objective journalism has never been real. All media personnel bring their own personal opinions into what they do. We have always been able to determine whether a newspaper, magazine, radio/TV station is right or left politically and that slant is going to impact their coverage. The best of them strive to be objective, but it is an impossible goal. The bulk of them push their viewpoints and citizens gravitate to the ones that best reflect their own beliefs. So don’t give us your sanctimonious crap about the liberal media when the right-wing media has dominated much of the last several decades and helped to lead us into the divided country we have become.

It would be a waste of time to try to refute all of your ridiculous assertions about election fraud when they are simply a rehashing of the many accusations that have been leveled by Trump and proven false by reporters, researchers, judges, and election officials. To assume that there are scads of dead people voting based on a few who have tried to vote as people who were dead (two in Georgia and one Trump voter in another state that I can recall offhand) is an absurd stretch. To say that people who have moved from a state voted illegally in the state they left is misleading at best. That was brought up in Nevada and it was determined that most of those were military personnel stationed elsewhere who had the right to vote in their home state of Nevada. In Georgia, election officials determined that there were many people who had moved out of state and moved back, but it was not simply to vote. Some of them had been back for years. You talk about “large Democrat-controlled counties waiting until after Republican counties have reported and then dumping their vote totals in the wee hours of the morning” as if this isn’t normal in an election. Because they are large counties, it takes longer to count the votes and larger urban areas tend to be more Democratic-leaning just as smaller more rural areas tend to be more Republican. They are not waiting for the Republican votes and then dumping theirs. And don’t try to pretend you don’t know this. You may be stupid, but you’re not that stupid.

To presume there was widespread election fraud in this past election, or any election, is to presume that there is a larger conspiracy network than any debunked conspiracy theory ever invented. You would have to have poll workers and election officials in every county, politicians in every state, judges in every court, citizens across the country, and more actively participating in the scheme to make it work. For you to believe this, you would have to believe that the majority of the people in your state are not trustworthy and if you don’t trust your own constituents any more than that, it is no wonder that we do not trust you. It is no wonder that we want you to stick to your promise of not running for another term as Senator. We can’t trust you to have our best interests at heart. The equivocation of your press release proves that far more than anything you have presented proves election fraud. Your proof is nothing more than parroting of the right-wing echo chamber and your chosen leader because you can’t think for yourself. You and that echo chamber led directly to the attack on our Capitol. Do us a favor and don’t wait to decide about the next election. Resign now and spare us the next two years.

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On Ron Johnson

Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson has joined several other Republican Senators (currently 11) in announcing that he will vote against the electors from “disputed states” in the 2020 Presidential election. Those disputed states include Johnson’s home state where voters elected Joe Biden by more than 20,000 votes. The difference was confirmed in a partial recount requested by the Trump campaign–of only the two most heavily Democratic and diverse counties in the state, Dane and Milwaukee. State and federal courts have thrown out several lawsuits intended to disenfranchise Wisconsin voters, both for lack of evidence and lack of standing. Johnson is joining these Senators despite stating in the past that he was elected not to advance his own causes but to represent the people of Wisconsin.

Johnson has rarely represented the wishes and desires of the people of his state. He originally ran as a Tea Party candidate in the one year that those right-wingers gained ground in elections. He was elected during the Tea Party wave in 2010 when barely over 50% of voters went to the polls in Wisconsin. In the campaign he was very vocal in his opposition to Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

He ran for the United States Senate portraying himself as a successful businessman, after marrying into a wealthy family and starting a plastics business with his brother-in-law. The business did grow to become a successful company and Johnson is a very wealthy Senator, unlikely to understand or care about the needs and opinions of the majority of the Badger state. He was recently reported to be worth $39 million, one of the nation’s wealthiest Senators.

A quick search of Johnson online brings up link after link in which the Senator’s positions on various issues show him out of touch with his constituents and with facts. He has long been opposed to same-sex marriage, is rabidly anti-abortion and is one of the most vocal climate change deniers in Congress.

Here are a few other things found in a short search online. There are likely to be dozens of similar stories that would have come up if it had been a lengthier search.

Prior to running for office, Johnson testified to the Wisconsin legislature at the encouragement of a deacon of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay against the Child Victims Act, a bill that would remove the statute of limitations for civil suits of victims of child sex abuse. Currently victims must sue before the age of 35. Most sexual assault agencies understand that it sometimes take decades for child sex abuse victims to come to terms with what happened to them as children.

The opposition to the Child Victims Act was noted in an August, 2020 article in the Daily Kos, which also noted the following nuggets from Johnson: “labeling Social Security ‘a Ponzi scheme‘, saying that the 97% of climate change scientists who say the phenomenon is man-made were ‘crazy’, the real cause of climate change was sunspots, and that Greenland is covered in snow and ice because we’re actually witnessing ‘global cooling‘. In 2013 that Ron Johnson answered criticism from the League of Conservation Voters that he denied climate change by accusing them of waging ‘environmental jihad’ and has compared politicians and activists trying to prevent climate change to Joseph Stalin, Hugo Chavez, and Fidel Castro.”

During a radio interview in the summer of 2015 he used the phrase “idiot inner city kids” in a discussion of school choice. He later said he regretted the use of the word and that he was actually describing how liberals feel about inner city youth. He adamantly supports school choice, which is basically transferring funds from public schools to private charter schools.

In 2016 Johnson made news by stating that teachers could be replaced by Ken Burns’ videos.

In April of 2017 Johnson agreed to a question and answer session with Madison East High School students, probably assuming they would not ask any tough questions. They did pepper him with intelligent and insightful questions, and one of the students recorded the entire session and posted it online. They hammered him on his support of charter schools, his positions on LGBTQ rights, and more. In an October visit to New Berlin High School in October, he told students that healthcare was a privilege–like food and shelter–not a right.

In the summer of 2019, Johnson continued to support Donald Trump and as chair of the Homeland Security Committee did nothing to prevent, stop, or even investigate the migrant detention camps on the southern border.

Through much of 2020, Johnson’s Homeland Security Committee held hearings investigating the Hunter Biden and Burisma conspiracy theories that Trump supporters were trying to use to damage Joe Biden’s campaign for the presidency. In August, he more or less admitted that his hearings would be beneficial to the Trump campaign, essentially acknowledging that he was using his power as chair of the committee to advance the campaign of his party’s candidate. He was referred to at the time as a “useful idiot” for accepting and echoing the same stories as the Russian disinformation campaign.

Like his hero, Donald Trump, Johnson has consistently downplayed the seriousness of Covid-19, noting in the spring of 2020 that shutting down the economy due to the virus would be like shutting down the economy due to traffic deaths. He said that the disease was not a death sentence, except for maybe up to 3.4% of the population. With a population of 328 million, 3.4% would translate to well over 11 million deaths, which would be a devastating number.

In August of 2020, he accused Google of gearing their get out the vote promotions to liberals and Democrats, without any evidence to back up the claim.

When Trump’s Attorney General William Barr announced that the Department of Justice had no evidence of widespread election issues, Johnson said that there was no proof that there was no fraud, the opposite of how evidence works. Republicans need to prove there was fraud rather than Democrats having to prove there was no fraud.

In December, he presided over a sham Congressional hearing in which he invited guests to present evidence of voter fraud, including lawyers whose cases were dismissed for lack of evidence. Because dozens of courts had dismissed cases, it appeared he wanted to present the case for massive voter fraud to the public. No evidence had convinced any court and his ridiculous hearing did nothing to provide any convincing evidence either.

Most recently, Johnson insisted that due to budget and debt concerns he could not support $2,000 checks for American citizens suffering from Covid and its effects on the economy. Earlier in the year, he was the one who blocked $1,200 checks in the Covid relief bill (twice). Yet, this is the same man who voted for Republican tax cuts for the wealthy and who was one of the Senators who oversaw the nation’s debt balloon by more than 35% to more than $29 trillion during the four years of the Trump administration. This quote from Mehdi Hasan sums it up: ““I guess Ron Johnson wasn’t so concerned about our children’s future when he voted to spend around $2 trillion on the Trump tax cuts, which by the way increased his own $39 million fortune.”

Ron Johnson does not represent his constituents. He represents Donald Trump. wealthy men and women across the country, big business, and other conservative, right-wing radicals. His politics and personal beliefs are not in line with regular Wisconsin folks. Unfortunately, he is not up for re-election for a couple more years and even though he promised not to become a life-long Senator he is now considering whether to run again in two years. If he does, Wisconsin needs to show him the door. He can go back to selling plastics instead of a right-wing bill of goods.

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New Year’s Prayer

It seemed like virtually everyone in America was eagerly anticipating bringing in the New Year last night. The bulk of the year was taken up with the worst plague in modern history, More than 1.8 million people died worldwide from it and nearly 350,000 in the U.S. alone.

But it wasn’t just coronavirus that made 2020 such a bad year. There were the killings of George Floyd, Jacob Blake, Breonna Taylor, and others that set off protests and counter-protests across the country. There was the continued rise of fascism and overt racism. There was a dysfunctional government led by a narcissistic man whose only interest has ever been himself. There were the continued false accusations of election fraud that worked to undermine our faith in our own institutions. There was a crashed economy that left thousands upon thousands of people unemployed, more homeless and hungry or on the edge of it, and the poor even poorer in the long march of economic disparity. And there was the inability of any individual or the government to do anything about any of it.

So because we tend to believe in hope, we set our sights on the turning of a new year (and in a couple of weeks the turning over of power). Friends and neighbors eagerly longed to say goodbye to the dumpster fire that was 2020, hanging our hopes on the idea that 2021 would turn it all around.

The problem is today is no different than yesterday. While we have a vaccine now, nothing changed overnight. Nothing will change after the inauguration. The virus will still keep killing people worldwide and there are now new strains to worry about. Bad cops will still kill innocent people. The legacy of the Donald Trump presidency will wreak havoc for years to come. There is no magic potion to stop the spread of coronavirus, fascists, conspiracy theorists, greed, and hate.

But we have to start somewhere, and today is as good a day as any. We can hope. We can pray that we have learned some lessons. Perhaps once we are safe from the virus we can avoid returning to a normal that really wasn’t normal. Maybe we can avoid rushing headlong back into our harried and overly busy lives and enjoy the time with our closest loved ones that we were forced to spend time with during quarantine. Perhaps we can continue to stay close with nature with hikes and quiet reflection, and that will help us understand the need to fix our planet. We can take in the reality that Black Lives Matter and work together to make that a meaningful reality. We can begin to fix the brokenness of our lives, our government, and our culture because 2020 gave us the gift of understanding what was broken.

This is a fervent wish and a prayer–that we come out from the horrors of the last year to a new understanding of what is wrong in this world and a new commitment to being better world citizens and neighbors, that we will work toward economic and racial equity simply because it is the right thing to do, and that we will do our best to ensure that we are all front-line heroes in the constant struggle for a better and more just world.

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Still Beating

A year ago this afternoon, I was at my desk in the office where I work. I had just taken a sip of a soda and started to feel a bit off. When I stood up I felt a bit dizzy and faint. I asked a co-worker if she could drive me to the emergency room as I wasn’t feeling well (if there’s ever a next time I’ll call an ambulance, but at least I didn’t try driving myself). When I got there, the staff was pretty nonchalant about it until I mentioned I had suffered a heart attack back in 2008. I had also been diagnosed with ischemic cardiomyopathy in late 2018 or early 2019 (which has been gotten under control over the last year due to a drug regimen). After explaining my history, they took me in to check my blood pressure and pulse. When the nurse listened to my heart I could tell by her look that something was definitely wrong.

It turned out that my heart was racing at 240 beats a minute, which is incredibly high (normal resting heart rate is considered to be 60-100 beats per minute; my usual resting heart rate is generally somewhere between 60-70). The fast heart beats had already lasted about 15 minutes by that time. What was happening is called ventricular tachycardia, which is essentially an electrical misfiring in the ventricles. If it continues for more than a few seconds, it can be fatal, so I was already lucky to still be alive at that point. I hadn’t overexerted myself (hard to do in an office setting) or had any recent stress, but tachycardia can be a result of previous heart damage. My heart was functioning on about 60% of its capacity due to damage from the heart attack a decade before.

Once the nurse discovered my heart rate, they immediately moved me up to the front of the line to get in to see a doctor. As I was stepping out of the nurse’s office my partner, Brian, showed up, so he was able to go in with me. They put me on an electrocardiogram immediately and within a short time had decided to give me medication to bring the beating back to normal. It didn’t work. They gave me a higher dose, but it had a minimal effect. They then set me up and shocked my heart after putting me under sedation so I wouldn’t feel it.

Later in the day they decided to do a heart catheterization and determined from that to replace one of my four stents and put in two new ones. It was a weird and long day, but they weren’t done yet.

Three days later, after many more tests and discussions, an ICD (implantable cardioverter defibrillator) was put into my chest. It is a combination pacemaker and defibrillator. The pacemaker makes sure the heart doesn’t beat too slowly and the defibrillator gives a shock if the fast heart beats from tachycardia start up again. Fortunately, that part of the device has not had to engage in the last year. The pacemaker has worked a small percentage of the time, as it is designed to do. I have had no further issues in the last year.

What amazes me is what doctors can do for heart diseases and other diseases that years ago would have been untreatable. Heart disease runs in my family. My father died of a massive heart attack at the age of 41, but I believe he may have survived with the technology we have now. I have outlived him now by more than twenty years. I am incredibly thankful for the doctors, nurses, designers of the ICD, and other professionals who put in countless hours to help ensure that people they don’t know or may never meet will live longer and fuller lives. I am thankful for the support and love of family and friends who have stood by me through several heart issues. And I am thankful every day that I have been given more time to enjoy this amazing thing called life. to laugh and love more, and to wonder in awe about the miracles in the lives we lead.

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The Problem with Monuments

Columbus’ Last Appeal to Queen Isabella, by Larkin Goldsmith Meade, in the California State Capitol. Photo by Callen Harty.

Today is the traditional Columbus Day holiday, which in many places is now being celebrated as Indigenous People’s Day or Native American Day, among other names. For years, Christopher Columbus was celebrated as the person who “discovered” America. The reality is that indigenous people were already settled here long before any Europeans came and Columbus never set foot anywhere on the North American continent. He landed on islands in the Bahamas and explored a bit of the coasts of Central and South America, but never North America. Nevertheless, his voyages opened the door for European colonization of the Americas, so he was considered the one to discover this part of the world from a white Eurocentric view of the world.

His voyages also opened the doors for enslavement of the indigenous peoples and decimation of their population through European diseases. His part in American history is being reconsidered and his legacy is at best problematic. In addition to the problems of disease and his enslavement of other humans, he was accused by his contemporaries of brutal treatment of the native population.

Because of this reassessment of Columbus, some cities and states have started using the traditional holiday as a way to honor Native Americans, who lived on this land long before European settlement and colonization. Statues of Columbus have been removed by some governments and in other cases citizen protestors have forcibly taken them down.

In the last several years, there has been a push to take down statues honoring Confederate leaders who led an insurrection against the United States to protect the institution of slavery. Some governments have voted to remove them and others have again been taken down by citizens. Since the death of George Floyd and the protests against police brutality in the United States, many other Confederate statues and monuments have come down and others, including statues of Union Civil War heroes, Presidents, and other leaders have been toppled or questioned, many of them causing consternation among some members of the majority population.

But those who question why we should honor our founding fathers with statues have reason to question their heroic status. George Washington owned over 300 slaves. Most of the founding fathers were slaveowners. They also created a government in which African-Americans were considered 3/5ths of a person, simply for taxation purposes and voting representation in Congress. They created a nation in which white male landowners held all the power and kept it that way through much of America’s history.

Of course, an argument for continuing to honor them is that they were products of their times, and that is true. But we are products of our times, too, and in our time in the course of history, we don’t believe that slavery is a good thing, we don’t believe that women should have no power, and we don’t believe in honoring those who promoted or supported those beliefs. The same people who argue that monuments honoring historical figures should remain standing because we need them to remember our history were likely the same people who celebrated the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s statue in Baghdad, even though he represented a part of Iraqi history. They were likely the same people who celebrated the destruction of the Berlin Wall or the removal of a statue of Stalin in Budapest during the Hungarian Revolution.

Nothing created by man is permanent and historians and the people are constantly reevaluating history and its heroes. When by modern standards or new politics, those put on pedestals by previous generations are no longer considered heroic, it is likely time to take them down. In some cases they will be replaced with those who more closely resonate with our modern conceptions of what heroes mean, though the likelihood is that at some time in the future, perhaps generations removed, those newer statues will be taken down by even newer thinking.

The problem with monuments is that all of our heroes are human. We all have flaws. While a person may be heroic in one aspect of their life, they may fail miserably in others. Thomas Jefferson was a great thinker and leader of the Revolution, but he also owned slaves. Charles Lindbergh was the first to fly solo across the Atlantic, but he was also an anti-Semitic fascist. Joe Paterno was the winningest coach in NCAA history, but he did nothing to stop an assistant coach from sexually abusing young boys. No person can claim that they have lived a perfect life, that they have not hurt others in some way, whether intentional or not.

The other problem with monuments is that we as human beings cannot always agree on what heroism means. And if we take human heroes out of it and decide to erect only statues honoring great ideals, we also cannot agree on what those are. What is considered an ideal government today may be anathema to tomorrow’s citizens. In addition, what is considered beautiful art by one may be reviled by others. Who gets to decide who is honored and how? The majority? And what happens when they become the minority?

Perhaps the answer is that we should not erect public statues and monuments at all, though it seems as as though it is in our nature to do so. If it is something we feel compelled to do, perhaps we have to work our way to an agreement about who or what deserves honor at the moment. Maybe we can keep some that honor great contributions, but that are problematic, but can also add plaques that give some more context to who they were. Maybe we should agree that it is simply okay for us to remove the monuments which we deem as not aligning with our current agreed upon values, such as statues of Columbus, and then erect monuments which honor our beliefs and morals at this time. Future generations can decide if our choices were right for them.

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The Danger of QAnon

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When

Hands Up

Hands Up/Don’t Shoot. Photo by Callen Harty.

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As Darkness Descends

Man with a weapon at a gun rights rally. Photo by Callen Harty.

Yesterday morning a friend of mine posted a warning on Facebook. There was an event page hosted by a militia group called Kenosha Guard. The event was “Armed Citizens to Protect our Lives and Property.” The event page asked if there were “any patriots willing to take up arms and defend our city tonight from the evil thugs?” My friend posted it as a warning with a note to Kenosha friends to stay safe.

I made the mistake of reading some of the comments on that event page and saw additional ones today. The one I saw suggested putting bodies in a pile and starting it on fire. Another one said, “When the shooting starts, make sure someone is sending a live feed of the mother fuckers going down.”  My heart sank and an ominous feeling came over me. I feared for any protesters who may go out onto the streets of Kenosha last night.

It turned out those fears were not unfounded. One of the “armed citizens” opened fire and shot one of the protesters in the head, killing him. Apparently the shooter was chased by several others and when he fell to the ground he fired and killed one more person and injured another. He then walked up to the police, still holding his gun, and they did not stop and question him, arrest him, or anything else. They drove right past him. He walked away.

Reports are coming out now that the shooter was a 17-year old from a town in Illinois that is about half an hour south of Kenosha. He was using a gun which was illegal for a person his age to even own in Illinois. After he walked away from the scene last night, it is being reported that he has now been arrested for murder. Already, right-wingers, gun rights activists, and others are speaking out on his behalf, claiming he shot in self-defense and that he was the victim in this.

There are several things wrong with this whole scenario. First, there was a huge police presence in Kenosha the last several nights because of the rioting caused by the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Videos taken at the time of the shooting show armored police vehicles a block away from where it happened. In addition, Wisconsin’s governor called in 125 National Guard troops two nights ago and doubled that to 250 yesterday. These are the people paid to protect us. We do not need armed “militiamen” to add to the chaos. To be blunt, a bunch of white men brandishing guns where Black Lives Matter protests are happening makes an already volatile situation a powder keg ready to explode.

Second, what is a 17-year-old Blue Lives Matter fan kid doing there with a powerful weapon? Why would the so-called “militia” allow him to join them? Did he really think that the Kenosha Guard was there to protect lives and property and not to intimidate and threaten protesters? Did he understand that most of these “militias” around the country are simply fronts for racist right-wingers who want others to cower before their weapons?

Third, excuse me, Kenosha Police, but really? You provided water to the Kenosha Guard members and thanked them for being there? You encouraged them? You let the shooter walk right past you and did nothing to stop him?

Fourth, the media is irritating the hell out of me, calling the Kenosha Guard “armed citizens” instead of right-wing violent fanatic vigilantes. Meanwhile, the others are Black Lives Matter activists, demonstrators, protesters, but never called citizens or community members. We can see where the media falls on the race issue. On social media, Facebook needs to be called out for failing to take down the militia event when it was called to their attention. I’ve seen at least two people who contacted them about the event and accompanying hate speech with no action taken.

Finally, my heart is hurting because of these killings. Although the press has not yet released information on the victims, I did see a video of the young man who was shot in the head and it hurts to know that he is gone because of a trigger happy kid who fell in with a bunch of grown men who love their guns and their supposed manhood more than anything else. Both of their lives are gone, as well as the other victim, and countless others will be permanently changed because of this incident. No citizen expressing an opinion, protesting legally, or in any other way taking a stand should be shot and killed for that. And even if they were damaging property, they did not deserve to die. Property can be replaced. Lives cannot.

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The Pardoning of Susan B. Anthony

Womens March

At the 2017 Women’s March in Madison, Wisconsin. Photo by Callen Harty.

Today Donald Trump, the hero of nasty women everywhere, officially pardoned Susan B. Anthony for the crime of illegally voting in 1872.

Excuse me for laughing.

If any other President, on the 100th anniversary of woman’s suffrage in the United States, issued a pardon for Anthony it would be noted as a nice symbolic gesture to mark that anniversary. But when it is Trump the immediate reaction is that this was a cynical ploy to attract the votes of those suburban housewives he so desperately needs to win the next election and to whom he has brazenly appealed to with racist overtures about protecting their neighborhoods from the residents of low income housing.

At the signing ceremony today, he noted, “She was never pardoned. Did you know that?” And one cannot be blamed for assuming he didn’t know it either until the likelihood that some staffer recently read it in an article on the suffrage anniversary and thought it would be a grand gesture and a stroke of genius that would cause women everywhere to take off their aprons and head to the polls as soon as possible.

A known misogynist accused of sexually assaulting more than two dozen women signing a pardon for one of the earliest pioneers of women’s rights is beyond ironic. It is disgusting, especially when one knows his history with women. He is opposed to a woman’s right to choose. He has repeatedly denigrated strong women, particularly in politics, but more generally any that speak out against him. He has gone to court to fight the Equal Rights Amendment. A quick Google search on Trump and women’s rights reveals site after site listing the many ways his administration’s policies have harmed women. If he had been alive when Anthony cast her vote he would have called her a nasty woman and insisted that she pay the penalty for trying to break into the old boys’ club. Or he would have grabbed her pussy simply because he was famous and could.

The second irony is that Anthony and some other suffragettes held complicated views on race. Anthony was opposed to the 15th amendment, which enshrined the idea of the right to vote regardless of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” While she and Elizabeth Cady Stanton both said they opposed the amendment because it excluded women, they used racist tropes to back up their positions. One can imagine the racist Trump appreciating those viewpoints if he took the time to learn anything about it. Perhaps if he knew that part of Anthony’s history, he would have also given her a medal for defending the white race.

Finally, regardless of her faults, Anthony’s fight was to expand voting rights. Trump honoring her for that at a time when he and his Republican allies are doing everything in their power to limit voting is really not funny and I am no longer laughing. They have purged voter rolls, caused the postal service to cut hours and service, cut polling locations (particularly in minority neighborhoods), fought mail-in voting, and lied about fraud and potential issues with mailed ballots. If he thought he could get away with it, Trump would likely take the vote away from women and minorities again. If he could, he would return voting only to men who owned land. It would make it easier for him to win reelection, which is really all that he is concerned about now.

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Anis

protect children

Protect Children. Photo by Callen Harty.

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Sacrificial Lambs

Trump chicken

Trump chicken. Photo by Callen Harty.

“We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China. It’s going to be just fine.”

That was Donald Trump’s initial response to the coronavirus all the way back in January. Since then, it has been one failure after another, with him all the while assuring us it’s going to be just fine, it will disappear, we have it under control, and countless times stating that it will miraculously go away.

It has not gone away and he has yet to admit that he was wrong all along. It was not a hoax, it was not the flu, it had no intention of just disappearing when the weather got warmer or Trump wished hard enough.

The day the death toll in this country passed 10,000 he said there was a light at the end of the tunnel. Less than a week later that had doubled to 20,000 deaths. Now we are over 135,000.

Despite this, Trump continues to undermine his medical experts, make them alter their reporting, and ignore their recommendations. He decided to officially withdraw from the World Health Organization. Ignoring medical experts at the Centers for Disease Control, he has over the course of the pandemic spouted idiotic theories about flu vaccines, injecting disinfectants, focusing powerful light, taking hydroxychloroquine, and his favorite, waiting for the virus to make its miraculous departure.

Like George Bush’s Mission Accomplished banner, Trump’s repeated claims that we are doing better, that things are looking good, that we can start reopening the country, are nothing but wishful thinking. One has to wonder why and the answer is quite clear to anyone who has been awake this whole time.

Covid-19 makes Trump look bad because people are sick and dying, the economy has tanked, and he has been clueless about how to lead. Importantly, there is an election coming up and his narcissistic ego cannot acknowledge that he might lose because he was supposed to be responsible for leading us through this crisis and failed miserably. And continues to fail miserably.

He cannot acknowledge the failure, though. Everything that has happened has been someone else’s fault–the Chinese, the Democrats, the medical professionals. His ego prevents him from seeing just how badly he has mismanaged this crisis. His ego also prevents him from wearing a mask in public and that sends a signal to others that it is okay, that they are safe from harm. It signals that the worst is over as he has promised all along.

But, of course, it is not. Cases keep rising, death tallies keep rising, and the supposed leader of this country (and formerly of the free world) keeps failing. He does everything he can in his narcissistic head to create a world of his own making, a world in which he has valiantly led us through this pandemic to the promised land of healthy people and a healthy economy. To prove it, he starts to hold rallies and tries to strong arm mayors and governors into reopening their cities and states. People can gather to see him at political rallies, they don’t have to wear masks (because those are for the weak–how did a medical issue become a political issue, anyway?), and they can sit side-by-side without worrying about getting the disease.

All of this to look strong, to desperately try to get the economy to rebound by November, and to win an election. If some want to follow Trump off of that cliff, it is their choice to do so. But now he is demanding that schools open in the fall because, again, he wants to pretend that none of this is real, that if you close your eyes and click your heels together three times we can go home again, we can go back to the lives we were leading before, and everything will return to normal. He doesn’t understand that his land of make-believe is not real, but his narcissistic need to constantly win has put him in the position of having to believe it and of being willing to sacrifice America’s children on the altar of politics.

During this pandemic, Trump has not gone far enough in what he needed to do most of the time. Now he has gone too far. Children’s lives (and their teachers) are at stake here, as well as those who may contract the virus from them. He has threatened to withhold funding for schools that don’t start back up in the fall. He is trying to bully school districts into complying with his demands–not for their good, but for his ego and his political future. This, as much as anything he has done during his presidency, illustrates his malignant narcissism. He needs to go back to school. He needs to be educated about medicine. He needs to learn empathy and compassion. And, most importantly, he needs to leave the White House in November.

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The Gentrification of Protest

We Hear You

We Hear You. Photo by Callen Harty.

Madison, Wisconsin has had six consecutive days and nights of protests since George Floyd’s murder became the latest episode of a black man killed by police. The last several nights have been relatively peaceful. The first several nights saw windows smashed out of 75 or so buildings on State Street, looting, and other damage. Most of the windows and doors along the entire street are boarded up–many because of damaged windows, some to try to protect from damage.

In the last couple days many of the boarded windows have been covered with art, much of it very striking and beautiful. Today I went to see it myself and was transfixed by a great deal of it. I ran into a friend, Jenny, and we talked about our feelings about it. There were many African-American artists, particularly women, working on different pieces all along the street, and it was amazing to see the works they were creating. There were also a lot of white folks working on pieces, too. At least a couple of the pieces were done by Latino artists in solidarity with Black Lives Matter. The protests have been a really nice mix of races, ages, and other characteristics, so the mix of artists is perhaps a good representation of the protests and the city as a whole.

At one point my friend said something that struck me. She said all of the beautiful artwork reminded her of gentrification and it blew me away because I was enjoying the art, but also feeling somewhat ambivalent about it and she nailed it for me with that. Many of the boarded windows had signs on them that indicated that the works were commissioned pieces. In some ways it felt like the gentrification of protest. You’re covering up the anger with flowers and rainbows, ignoring the underlying passion and demands. If you hide the harsher, more direct messages and cover the boards with appealing artwork, people may want to come downtown again and do a little shopping. It seemed likely that a lot of the original graffiti was being painted over with lovely images about peace and love. There’s nothing wrong with promoting peace and love, but it’s also important to hold onto the messages being conveyed by the protesters.

I found myself drawn to the boards that were not yet covered with beautiful images, but with the rawer graffiti and tagging, with messages like “Open Your Eyes,” “Arrest Matt Kenney,” “BLM,” “Fuck 12,” “I Can’t Breathe,” “Community Control,” “Defund the Police,” “Latinos Stand with You,” “Cops Kill,” “Breonna Taylor,” “Justice for Tony Robinson,” “Justice for Floyd,” “No Cops in Schools,” “Change the System,” and “Do You Hear Us Now?”

It’s great that the city is paying artists, particularly black artists–who tend not to be very valued in this country–to create art in the midst of destruction. It is beautiful and profound and conveys important messages to a hurting city and a hurting nation. But please don’t cover all the gut-level feelings and statements that were there first and from those on the front lines. Those messages are just as important, or more so. Those boards and buildings were marked by the protesters with their own feelings, needs, and desires. They are messages that the protesters are trying to convey to the world and we need to listen.

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