Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Doing Something

It's so easy to feel helpless in the face of powerful forces. My kids—being 11—are really into superheroes right now, and superhero stories are often ones of and underdog beating a powerful foe. The underdog wins because he is on the side of goodness, love, humanity, justice, integrity, rightness, light. I know we're not living in a comic book, but I find these stories more comforting now than ever. But it's important to note that the superheroes don't just sit by and wait for the darkness to subside on its own; they DO something. Yet it's hard to know where to begin, or what will even make an impact.

This week I did some things that I hope, if nothing else, will make me sleep better at night (I've never had nightmares about a president before now, not even W). First, I made some small donations to the following organizations (I don't have much to give, not making an income right now, but every bit helps):

Americans for Responsible Solutions PAC, to help in their fight against gun violence, and because the meager protections we currently have will not doubt face assault over the next four years.

NARAL Pro-Choice, because without freedom to make decisions about our bodies and our health, we don't have freedom at all (and also to troll Mike Pence).

Good Shepherd Food Bank of Maine, because food insecurity is a problem that crosses political lines.

350 Maine, because climate change is the biggest threat we all, and our planet face.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, because our civil rights are under attack.

Partners in Health, because no matter how bad it gets, someone somewhere has it worse, and Partners in Health brings lifesaving medical care to the very worst off around the world.

I also wrote a (very long, long) letter to Maine's congressional delegation. There have been a lot of petitions and click-sign email campaigns going around, and I've signed some of them, but what I had to say took up a lot more space than a petition or email. There's also been a lot of encouragement to make phone calls, but I really hate using the phone (took me a full week to call and schedule a hair cut) and from what I hear, people get a lot of busy signals and full voicemail boxes. A letter will at least get somewhere, though I doubt the honorable representatives and senators will actually read it. There was so much I wanted to say, I'm sure I missed a lot (I already realized I left out investigations into Trump Foundation and Trump University fraud), but I got some of my most pressing concerns down, and I plan to continue to hold them accountable. Here's what I wrote:

Dear Senators King and Collins,
Representatives Pingree and Poliquin,

I am writing you to express my horror and deep dismay over the election of a racist, xenophobe, sexist, and likely child rapist to the highest office in the land. I insist that you, Maine’s elected officials, stand up to this demagogue at every turn. President Obama set high standards of decorum, compassion, respectability, intelligence, rationality, and unimpeachable character that the office of president has not seen in decades. I insist that you to hold president-elect Trump to Obama’s standards, not to the standards established during the campaign, in which the candidate’s behavior was expected to rise only slightly higher than that of an emotionally disturbed toddler. We have seen first hand in Maine the damage that can be inflicted when an angry, mean-spirited, and irrational bully with the impulse control of a rabid dog and an adherence to ideology that brooks no argument from outside of his narrow world view is elected executive by less than a majority of the voting public. Do not forget that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by nearly two million votes, at last count. The president-elect does not in any way, shape, or form have a mandate and should not be deferred to as if he does.

There are many ways in which our democracy, our values, and our way of life are threatened by the incoming administration and these must all be countered at every turn, by all of us. But you, as elected officials, have a special role to play and much more resting on your shoulders. Below, I outline some of the many ways you need to speak out and uphold our democratic principles and institutions:

Speak out against any and all rhetoric coming from Trump, his surrogates, advisors, and appointees that demonizes or scapegoats any group of Americans, including people of color, immigrants, refugees, muslims, women, the disabled, and LGBTQ community. Denounce any act of violence or intimidation committed against members of these groups and insist on full investigation of all hate crimes. You also have a special role to play in educating your constituents of the value of a multi-cultural society and demonstrating through your words, actions, and deeds that inclusiveness is one of our greatest values and strengths.

Investigate thoroughly any role Russia played in influencing the election, including hacking of DNC emails and leaking of private information of Democratic candidates.

Insist on full financial and conflict of interest disclosure from the president-elect. Demand tax records for the last 20 years. Require the disclosure of all current, former, and past business interests, especially with regard to foreign nations. Demand the establishment of a blind trust, and/or liquidation of all Trump assets. Investigate each and ever instance of possible misuse of office for personal gain and quid pro quo. Establish a congressional ethics committee to maintain constant tabs on Trump’s business dealings and any possible conflict with US policy or diplomacy. Insist that any Trump family member who is involved in his businesses be excluded from all security briefings, policy discussions, and meetings with foreign officials.

Denounce and oppose any administration appointee that does not represent and respect the values of the United States of America. Begin with Trump’s chief strategist and chief counselor, Steve Bannon, a white supremacist, racist, and misogynist whose “news” platform has been instrumental in fronting false conspiracy theories against Democrats. Thank you, Representative Pingree for signing a letter and circulating a petition requesting Bannon’s appointment be rescinded. Senator King, your statement on the Bannon appointment was weak and hollow. Senator Collins, your response was even more vapid than Senator King’s and Representative Poliquin, we have heard crickets from you. Senators King and Collins and Representative Poliquin, please answer the following question: Do you think it’s acceptable and in keeping with American values for a white supremacist to be the chief advisor to a president of the United States? Next, take a look at Trump’s nominee for Attorney General, Senator Jeff Sessions. Sessions is a documented racist, whose bid for a federal judgeship was denied in 1986 due to his racial views. Again, thank you Representative Pingree for speaking out against Sessions in a statement. Senators King and Collins, your statements of support or non-comment in no way rise to the level of disapprobation that should be heaped upon a racist candidate who, if confirmed, will be charged with enforcing the nation’s anti-discrimination laws. I insist that you take Sessions to task during confirmation hearings and vote against his appointment if there is the slightest lingering doubt of his ability to be unbiased with regard to race, ethnicity, country of origin, or sexual orientation. I expect from all four of you and your colleagues in the House and Senate an intense level of scrutiny and denouncement of any racist, anti-immigrant, misogynist, or anti-LGBTQ extremist nominated or appointed by the incoming administration.

Oppose any nomination to a federal judgeship, including and especially to the Supreme Court, of a candidate who has an agenda of rolling back reproductive rights, reversing Roe v. Wade, eroding the First Amendment’s separation of church and state, rolling back voting rights, reversing equal marriage rights for LGBTQ Americans, or further entrenching the outsized role of corporations and money play in our determining our political outcomes and influencing our policies.

Demand from Mitch McConnell immediate and expedited confirmation hearings for Merrick Garland, President Obama’s imminently qualified and intensely moderate nominee for the Supreme Court, which has lacked a full 9-member panel of justices for ten months due to Republican intransigence and obstruction. If Garland does not receive immediate consideration and confirmation, no nominee from Trump should even be considered unless he is MORE qualified and MORE moderate and unbiased in his views than Garland.

Oppose any repeal of The Affordable Care Act. Twenty million Americans receive their health care through the ACA, including me and my family of five. My husband and I are both self-employed—the existence of the ACA made it possible for me to leave my dead-end and deadening job and pursue work I love—and there is no way we could afford insurance premiums without the tax credits. If you are in any way informed about insurance, you should know that without the coverage mandate, insurers would flee Maine where our older, sicker, more rural population makes insurance coverage more costly. If my family loses our health coverage through repeal of the ACA, or any other congressional shenanigans, I will send our medical bills to each of your offices, and I will start a movement for other Mainers to do the same.

Oppose any rollback of our social safety net, including Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid as well as TANF, SNAP, and other benefits that help our poorest and most vulnerable citizens. Speaker Paul Ryan has been chomping at the bit to dismantle our civil society, and I insist that you stand in his way at ever step.

Oppose the establishment of a Muslim registry, as the affront to the constitution and American values that it is. This is a country founded on the free practice of religion and should continue to be so.

Oppose any so-called “infrastructure” bill that is merely a hand-out of tax-breaks and privatization schemes for construction and real estate companies. The only infrastructure bill that should be considered would put ordinary citizens to work on actual needed public infrastructure projects, which are not already in the pipeline to go ahead, and would not privatize any public assets, such as roads, water and sewer systems, and would operate through public spending on work, not tax breaks and loans to corporations. Further, any approved infrastructure bill must be fully funded by increased taxes on high-income/high-wealth Americans and corporations. Representative Pingree, I beg you to insist your Democratic colleagues not once again fall into the trap of trying to be reasonable and appease the Republican Beast by trying to cooperate and compromise. They will only continue to devour you and any progressive hopes we have for the future.

Oppose any rollbacks or repeals of our environmental protections. I am not old enough to have seen Maine’s rivers run different colors, depending on the dye woolen mills were using that day, but you know as well as I do that the US EPA, the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and subsequent laws and rules and international agreements have cleaned up Maine’s rivers, nearly eliminated acid rain damage to our forests and lakes, slowed the accumulation of mercury and other toxic pollutants in our fish, arrested the growth of the ozone hole, reduced the number of bad air days on Maine’s coast, and protected and preserved our forests, fisheries, and the state’s natural beauty, which is the only natural resource we have that currently has value. Trump has promised to eliminate the EPA, drill on sensitive lands, hand over public lands to the states. All of these policies would be a disaster for Maine, for Americans, for our children and grandchildren and must be opposed vehemently. Further, the greatest threat our world faces going forward is climate change and the catastrophic weather events and dispossession of people it will undoubtedly cause. The president-elect denounces climate change as a hoax. This is a dangerous line of thinking when the survival of entire species, including our own, is at stake. Oppose any withdrawal or non-compliance with the Paris Accord, insist on the full defense of the Clean Power Plan in the courts, and promote the development of clean power and carbon-neutral technologies.

I am devastated that our country voted in a racist, xenophobic, woman-hating, pussy-grabbing, demagogue. I am horrified that there are enough neo-nazis, white supremacists, and ku klux klan members to not only hold rallies and parades but to vote one of their own into the highest office in the land. I am sickened that the Republicans have abandoned all semblance of decency and have embraced an ideology that threatens to send this country back to the 1950s Jim Crow era—or perhaps 1930s Europe. I preferred living in a bubble, believing racial violence, anti-muslim violence, rape and violence against women, and violence against LGBTQ persons were isolated incidents and not a symptom of a great and virulent malady that has stricken our nation. But now I’m woke. And I don’t plan on going back to sleep. I will be watching Washington. I will take note how you vote. I will hold you accountable for upholding the values of a country in which hatred, exclusion, and violence have no place.


Andrea Lani


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