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In my house there are four boxes.

Four special boxes.

First, there is the God Box, a small cardboard box covered with embossed white paper. It contains the prayers my step-mother wrote to her deity during the last years of her life. It’s a difficult box to visit.

Then there is the Poem Box. It’s flat, the size of a billfold, and it contains the poems my father wrote after my stepmother died. It, too, is a difficult box, filled with despair and dark thoughts written in days’ early hours as he precessed from a broken future toward his own demise.

Recently, I received an incongruous box. A wooden half-moon with a clasp, japanned and decorated with 19th century-style chrysanthemums, it fits easily in two hands. It is from the estate of my recently deceased brother, and while it is totally not like him in style, its contents—pipes, Malian artifacts, a bracelet of broken silver—most definitely are. But, like the other boxes, visiting this one is also a sad journey.

The fourth box, though, is different. (more…)

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As I write this, we are all caught in this liminal condition, this “state between states,” as votes that have been cast continue to be counted. Regardless of which campaign is eventually judged the winner, though, there is a clear loser: America.

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This damnable year has taught me two things, the most recent of which is.:

  • Vote shaming does not work.

A few times, now, I’ve attempted to convince non- and third-party-voters to cast a meaningful vote in this year’s election. In those posts, I have avoided anything that might be construed as bullying or “shaming.” I haven’t cast aspersions or indulged in ad hominem attacks. I haven’t in any way implied that Americans don’t have the right to disenfranchise themselves.

In discussions, I’ve striven to be firm but not belligerent, hoping persuasion would prove more effective than incivility. I’ve expressed my sincere understanding for each person’s reasons for eschewing both Dems and GOP, but have simultaneously pointed out that there are more important aspects at stake here than just one voter’s preference (or lack thereof) for a particular candidate. I’ve stressed that unity is our strength, and that e pluribus unum is even more true today, in our diverse and multicultural society, than it was in the much more homogenous 1776. I’ve argued that how we vote in this election will affect many people beyond ourselves.

And still, I’ve been accused of bullying and shaming. I’ve been told I have no right to judge. I’ve been unfriended, disinvited, and (I suspect) blocked.

Well, since my last post here on the topic, our current POTUS has moved to replace a liberal icon of the SCOTUS with an arch-conservative, has laid the groundwork for nationwide voter intimidation and nullification, and has found it impossible to utter the simple phrase, “I denounce white supremacy in all its forms.”

Despite this, I still refuse to engage in public shaming of those who have chosen to sit this one out and/or vote for a non-viable candidate.

That does not mean I won’t try to convince them, though.

Because this isn’t about me or about being “right.”

It isn’t about me. It isn’t about you. It isn’t about any one of us.

It’s about all of us.

It’s about my friend’s kid, who’s struggling with their gender identity and fears violence perpetrated by emboldened bigots. It’s about my neighbor whose furlough just turned into a layoff, and who’s worried that the ACA won’t be there for him and his family. It’s about my LGBTQ friends who are fearful of what the new SCOTUS will do (or undo) regarding their marriage. It’s about my friends up and down the West Coast, suffering under smoke and evacuation orders, and those on the East Coast buffeted by one hurricane after another. It’s about the parents I know, worried sick about their kids going to school during a pandemic, worried about when and if life will ever return to something reminiscent of what it was like just a year ago.

We all know friends in similar situations, fellow citizens who are negatively affected by this administration’s actions (or inactions). And we all know this election is a turning point. We can all see the two paths that lie ahead, clearly and starkly delineated. The difference before us is impossible to deny: two paths, two futures.

But which future? Which path?

This election decides, and it is our civic duty, our responsibility as citizens, to take it seriously. Sitting it out or voting for a candidate with zero chance of winning is a total abdication of that responsibility. It does not move the needle. It does not have an effect. It does not make a difference. And, judging from the strident, sometimes vitriolic, often knee-jerk responses I’ve received from third-party acolytes and non-voters, they know it, too.

But here’s the other lesson I’ve learned from 2020:

  • Things can always get worse.

And if we do not join together to fight the obvious threat, things will get worse.

Our nation, our democracy, our institutions, and our norms, need you.

k

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Socialist! Anarchist! Traitor!

The list of what I am (according to the Opposition) goes on, but those are the highlights. Frankly, I don’t see it, but what can I do?

One thing I can do is be up-front about what it is I want for America. If that paints me as an anarcho-socialist , I’ll have to own it.

So, here we go: one liberal’s manifesto, in 1,000 words.

Health Care

I want you to be able to go to the doctor when you’re ill. Simple as that. I want you to be able to see a physician whether or not you’re currently employed or can afford the cost. You shouldn’t suffer (or die) because you’re poor or because you don’t have a job. I want an alternative to employer-provided healthcare because (A) some employers are dicks and don’t provide healthcare or a wage high enough to afford it, (or both) and (B) if you get laid off or you’re too ill to work or, hell, I don’t know, there’s a pandemic and your businesses shuts down, I don’t want you to lose that healthcare.

There are many ways to achieve this, but this is the goal:

You should be able to go to the doctor when you’re sick.

Racial Justice

I want you to be treated equally, regardless of what you look like, what you worship, or who you love. And you certainly shouldn’t fear for your life whenever you interact with the law enforcement. Anything counter to that goal is counter to equality, which is counter to basic American tenets. Privately, you may harbor any prejudices and bigotries you want. You can even gather with like-minded friends and complain loud and long about the inferiority of others. You can even worship a god that encourages this bigotry. Go ahead. Knock yourself out. Just keep it in your basement, your garage, your private venue, because out here, in public, we should all be treated equally.

Again, many things must change to move us in this direction—policing reforms, help for historically disadvantaged communities, redrawing gerrymandered districts—but this is the goal:

You and I (and he and she and they) are all equal in our citizenship, and should be treated equally by government and by public businesses.

Economy

I want your job to pay you enough to live on. That means I think even an entry-level full-time job should pay you at least enough to cover food and shelter. It might be ramen and refritos in an apartment with a roommate (or two), but it should be enough. You shouldn’t have to apply for food stamps if you’re a full-time employee. You shouldn’t have choose between food, medications, or heat if you’re working full-time.

I want your job to be safe. That means businesses should treat employees, customers, and neighbors kindly, and not harm their health or financial well-being. Since business has proven that, given the chance, it’ll screw over anything, from employees to creditors to the environment, they need to be regulated. This does make it harder for businesses to turn profits, but profit should not cost human lives. If you can’t turn a profit without harming people, then I think we can live without what you’re selling.

There’s a lot packed into those paragraphs, but this is the goal:

Your job should (A) pay you a sufficient wage, and (B) not hurt you, your family, your town, or the world.

Science and Facts

I want you to know that government policies are based on facts. Climate change, pandemics, food safety, clean water and air, the policies on these topics need a strong foundation in science. Yes, scientific consensus is sometimes a moving target, especially as regards emerging threats, but it’s well-proven that ignoring science is a Bad Idea. And yes, there are other, non-science factors to be weighed, but if we’re clear on the facts, we can see the trade-offs that policy makers make. Denying scientific consensus, denying factual evidence, degrades our trust and encourages bad decisions that end up hurting us all.

This isn’t really a policy thing; it’s a people thing, in that it’s people who make policies, but this is the goal:

You should be able to trust that science-based policies are, in fact, based on science.

Taxes

I want you to know that everyone pays their fair share of taxes. We all rely on the same public works, from utilities to military to roads to schools and beyond. You may not have kids in school, but you rely on kids who went to school. You may never have had to call the fire department, but you sure as hell want them there if you need them. These are paid for with taxes, and whether you make minimum wage or you make millions, you rely on these things, so you should pay for them. How much? Well, at the low end, you may not be able to afford anything, as all your income goes to necessities. That’s okay, because there are lots of us who can afford it. But, most often, it’s those who can afford it most who pay the least, and this is neither fair nor just. The trickle-down economic theory that has justified this situation for decades has proven itself false and should be scrapped.

If anything, this is the part that will strike many as “socialism,” but this is the goal:

Your tax rate shouldn’t be higher than a billionaire’s.


That’s it. That’s my (brief) manifesto. For my life, I don’t understand why everyone doesn’t share these goals (except for billionaires who don’t like taxes . . . I get that part. Tough.). These aren’t “radical left” ideas. They’re ideas that have been around for a long time, many of which were actual Republican policy in past decades.

But, if after reading the goals above, you still think I’m some sort of anarcho-socialist monster out to destroy the suburbs and defile the American Way, I don’t think I’ll be comfortable with your goals, either.

k

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If Trump is your first choice, keep scrolling.
If Biden is your first choice, keep scrolling.

If, however, you find yourself in some middle ground, unhappy with either choice and thinking of giving your vote to a third-party candidate, writing in a name, or not voting at all, let’s talk.

The phrase I hear most often from people in this situation is, “I’m going to vote my conscience.” This is a laudable sentiment. Our conscience should factor into our choice of elected officials. Our ideals and our precepts of morality and good governance, these are important elements in a decision this consequential. After all, the actions of the person elected to be our president will affect us all, be it for good or for ill.

So let’s talk about our conscience.

What is our conscience telling us? What is it really telling us?

Obviously, it’s unsatisfied with either of the two major candidates. This one’s too radical (or not radical enough), and the other is too destructive. Too much change. Not enough change. Too boring. Too not boring. In short, we’re frustrated because neither candidate is what we really want, and that third-party (or write-in) candidate is a much closer fit.

Or, perhaps our conscience is just so fed up with the two established parties—both so entrenched and hidebound, both so habituated to finger-pointing and obfuscation—that voting for a third-party candidate (or sitting the election out altogether) seems the only way to register our anger and disapproval for the established two-party system.

Sound about right? Yeah, but I think our conscience is also telling us something else, something we’re not hearing because those other, top-of-mind aspects are too loud. If we push those to the side a bit, try to mute them, I think we might hear the other thing, the small but nagging truth our conscience is whispering in our ear:

We’re in trouble.

Deep, deep trouble.

Our conscience knows, without question, that where we are, as people and as a nation, is a bad place, and that where we’re headed (should the incumbent be given another term) will at best be more of the same chaotic slide into ignominy, and may quite likely be worse. Our conscience knows that despite any perceived boons from this administration, on balance, regular folk are suffering mightily. Our conscience knows that America is less respected, our reputation has been tarnished, and our economy and security eroded.

Our conscience also knows, at its core, what we need to do. We need to band together, unite around a common cause, face a common foe, just as we’ve done before when, as people and as a nation, we faced a Depression, two world wars, and other national crises.

So, as satisfying as that protest vote would feel, as attractive as that third-party candidate might appear, our conscience knows that we need to be smart, to see the larger picture, and form an unbeatable coalition by combining our votes to defeat Trump. We cannot afford the risk of four more years of this. We need to vote the incumbent out.

Let’s work together, let’s help one another survive, as people and as a nation.

Let’s join forces, combine our votes for Biden, so we can tell Trump “You’re fired.”

For the good of everyone.

k

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Well, we’re in it, now, aren’t we? I’m talking about Election Season, of course, and it’s pretty clear that it’s time to fasten our seatbelts.

As we prepare for this long, bumpy night to November 3rd, though, let’s not forget the most important Social Media Commandment:

Thou Shalt Not Get Played.

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First, a reminder that, to help you through isolation, two of my novels are available free of charge, in Kindle ebook format. Free thru this Sunday. Tell a friend.

Now, to the subject at hand.

It’s been a tough week, here. I’ve been fighting depression and towering rage in equal proportions. We’re all still healthy, here, so no worries on that front. No, what’s been troubling me is a trend that has been gathering steam in recent weeks.

As the pandemic crisis has grown in America, most states have issued “stay at home” orders. Here in Seattle, we were among the first to implement such measures, and they have proven effective in slowing the spread. We have cut the transmission rate in half, our hospitals have not been overwhelmed, people have not died because they couldn’t get proper treatment, and we’ve actually been able to send ventilators from Washington to some of the harder hit areas on the East Coast. That’s all good stuff, right there, but it has come at a cost.

Our local economy has taken a beating. Even with our state’s rather liberal definition of what constitutes an “essential business,” a lot of people have been laid off, furloughed, had hours drastically cut, or have found that their employers have simply closed up shop. Restaurants, always a razor-thin profit margin enterprise, have shuttered by the dozen. Family-owned businesses have closed doors that have stood open for decades. Artists and artisans have no place to display their wares, as Pike Place Market and other venues echo in emptiness. People are hurting, unable to pay bills, unable to pay for basic necessities.

It is this—the economic shutdown—that has given rise to a line of discourse that, to be frank, keeps me up at night and fills part of every day with hair-tearing, are-you-kidding-me incredulity. The argument I’ve been battling boils down to this:

The economy is more important than people.

I’ve heard it from the president, from senators, from right-wing pundits, and from folks I know online. “Open the economy.” “Time to get back to work.” All in total contradiction to what science and medicine are telling us is the safest way forward.

I am more than flabbergasted that this line of reasoning even exists. I am more than shocked that it should be promoted by such a large proportion of our society. I am more than offended, more than disgusted, more than outraged, more than appalled.

This rhetoric positively frightens me.

Make no mistake: this rhetoric puts a price tag on human lives. Those who espouse it are saying that it’s better to let people die than to lose money, and that’s some weapons-grade reasoning, right there.

It is unconscionable that this is even an acceptable stance. It is grotesque. And the fact that it primarily comes from the ideological bloc that also aligns itself with “pro-life” causes makes it doubly so.

Those who promote this view usually wrap it up in the guise of “more people will die from a failed economy than from C19,” but never do they support this assertion with any data. In fact, the data that do exist on the topic say the opposite. During the Great Depression, mortality rates dropped and longevity increased. It wasn’t a picnic, as any of our elders will attest, but society did not crumble. And why? Why didn’t society devolve into armed gangs and anarchy? Because we pulled together. We pulled together during the Great Depression, during WWII, and we are pulling together now. All of these stay-at-home orders? They are us, pulling together, to save our fellows, our neighbors, our selves.

Society does not exist to serve the economy. The economy exists to serve society. And it’s not like somehow, during this temporary shutdown, be it for two months or six or even more, the economy will disappear, crumbling into dust and ruin for lack of souls to feed upon.

It’s just an economy, stupid.

We built this economy, and we can build another if we have to. But we won’t have to, because after this hiatus our economy will be revivified. Hopefully, it will be different, requiring better care for all and better wages and conditions for those who we realize truly are essential workers, but it will be there, it is there, ready to get fired up, ready to go. Ready, for when we need it again.

But before that time, we must work to save lives, for without us, without our toil, there is no economy.

In the interim, go, read a book, watch a movie, make love, get a bit squiffy on whatever makes you squiffy. We will be OK, when we all emerge from our burrows and see once more the light of day. And I truly believe, we will be better for this, as long as we hold true to our ideals.

It’s people who make a society, and if we don’t band together against a common threat, what the hell is the point?

Stay safe.

k

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