Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Young Ukrainians Step up for Open World Program

A new group of young Ukrainian professionals is in Northwest, Ohio, for  an Open World Program focusing on NGO management, building partnerships, developing resources, and empowering the people they serve. The Ukrainians will have opportunities to learn about local government as well as the daily lives of Americans through staying with host families and visiting various sites.  They will participate in social service and cultural programs; visit local and regional nonprofits and faith-based organizations such as Cherry Street mission; visit Port Clinton to learn about the Ottawa County Court House, United Way and Sutton Center; enjoy a day on Lake Erie and at Cedar Point; and spend time exploring and sharing. It's what these kinds of cultural exchanges are all about. Meanwhile, we will also learn from them, and increase our understanding of other cultures.

Our guests are:
*Yevhenii Olehovych Bondarets, from Kiev, who works with internally displaced refugees fleeing the war in eastern Ukraine.
*Oleksandra (Sasha) Kolomiichuk, from Zhytomyr, an instructor and student at Ivano Franco State University and volunteer with at-risk children, AIDs/HIV prevention, and stopping human trafficking.  Rep. Marcy Kaptur was thrilled to learn her parents are beekeepers!
*Lina Mykhailovska, a restoration artist at the Lviv Historic Museum, deputy editor of a Legal Protection League newspaper, dedicated to promoting Rule of Law and civil society.
*Kateryna Ivanivna Lovinska, from Burtyn, who works with various projects established by our US Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, helping to manage and distribute humanitarian shipments and support public-private partnership projects to help the needy, educate children, and build sustainable agricultural projects.
*Alla Pavlivna Salatska, mayor of the rural villages of Kotiurzhyntsi, Blydni, and Cherniivka, under the Polonne City Council Unified Territory. She focuses on economc development, social services, addressing the need for jobs, fixing roads, improving the quality of life in small villages.
*Tamara Zykova is the facilitator of this delegation, as she was for the group from Burtyn and Starobilsk two years ago. She works with the American program Save Ukraine Now in Kiev, and is a long-time partner for a host of humanitarian, educational and professional programs.  She is a great friend of Open World, which is an extraordinary Library of Congress and US Congress international exchange and professional development program.

I was happy to meet this latest group of Ukrainians at a welcoming lunch at the Toledo Hungarian Club this past Sunday, sponsored by the Great Lakes Consortium for Training and Development (GLC).  The GLC, under the indefatiguable leadership of Elizabeth Balint, organizes and manages Open World programs here in the Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan region. Viktoriya Maryamova is her hardworking assistant. The program is administered by World Services of LaCrosse, Inc.

At Life Revitalization Center(l-r):Yev Bondarets,
 Lina Mykhailovska, Tamara, Kateryna
Lovinska, CEO Liz Simon, Alla Salatska,
and Oleksandra Kolomiichuk
I also joined the lively group at the Cherry Street Mission's Life Revitalization Center, a multi-purpose program for the homeless and needy. Liz Simon, the CEO, talked about the range of services, partnerships, resources, and opportunities the center offers. Impressive! The group then went to serve lunch and meet people at
the Mission, eager to volunteer and to help out.  After lunch, they headed to Shared Lives Studio and Gallery in downtown Toledo, a beautiful art space filled with the beautiful work, in every medium, of artists with developmental disabilities. A major interest of the Open World delegation is how to generate income to sustain your NGO's mission and goals. Shared Lives is a great model.

Olga Shostachuk, left, interpreter par excellence,
who travels here from Cleveland, and Alla and Tamara   
Rep. Marcy Kaptur with
Sasha, whose parents are
Our Ukrainian visitors started their cultural exchange journey with a bang and have a busy week ahead of them, learning about local government, agricultural organizations and projects, cultural NGOs like Common Space, and having meetings and exchanges with Bill Hilt of the World Affairs Council, Rep. Marcy Kaptur, Toledo City Councilmember Peter Uvjagi, and more dedicated nonprofit leaders.
With Rep.Marcy Kaptur (far right) at the Hungarian Club
Kudos to all of them, to Elizabeth and the GLC, to Tamara and translator Olga, to Rep. Marcy Kaptur and Open World, and to the latest Ukrainian delegation for their commitment to building a strong Ukraine and a peaceful world.  These young professionals are the future of Ukraine.

Some of the members of an Open World delegation
from western Ukraine, Nov. 2012
An Open World delegation from Burtyn, thanks to the work of Marcy Kaptur, 
and from Starobelsk in far-eastern Ukraine where I served with the Peace Corps, Nov. 2014.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

My friend Teddy: "I Still Have Words in Me"

My friend Teddy was laying in a hospital bed, looking frail and pale. I was worried. Her lovely sons, Andrew and Matthew, were taking turns coming into town from Chicago and Toronto. Teddy and I were reminiscing when I heard her whisper, rather firmly, "I still have words in me."

I looked at her in amazement. "How powerful that message is," I said to her.  

Yes, we elder women do, indeed, still have words in us. Our bodies may be getting weaker, but our voices are strong.  Our words can fill almost any space or any void existing. We have lots of stories to tell. 

The voices of women have, historically, been muted and hidden, in the shadows of American history. Teaching American women's history for some 20 years taught me this.  Women's voices, if they are sought out and heard, are replete with substance and meaning, about being, working, achieving, struggling againt the odds, seeking rights, autonomy, and equality. Women's voices constitute a major theme in the story of America becoming, of making progress toward our ideals.  I think of Lucy Stone, the Grimke sisters, Margaret Fuller, Sojourner Truth, Stanton and Anthony, Alice Paul and Carrie Catt, 20th-century reformers like Jane Addams and Eleanor Roosevelt, and the muted voices of ordinary women.   

With Teddy at Barnes and Noble, 
a favorite place, images of Faulkner and Fitzgerald
appropriately behind us. 
Teddy has a bit of all of them in her, a strong commitment to fairness and justice, freedom from abuse and fear, rights and opportunities for all, honoring the experiences and points of view of women across race, class and ethnicity.  

She brought her voice to the work she loved most--teaching.  Teddy was a great teacher, thoughtful in the subjects she chose and pioneering in her methods. She believed fervently, still does, in teaching reading, thinking  and writing. Lots of writing. She loved teaching students at Rogers how to express their thoughts in words. She had a way of eliciting the most honest voices on paper from all her students. "They can write, and starting very young," she says emphatically, remembering the work of several students in her classes, and of particular students, as if it were yesterday.  She remembers the literature she taught, too, from the poetry of Gerald Manley Hopkins to one of her favorite stories, Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird.  "There are universal themes to explore, and kids get it!" 

At Barnes and Noble, To Kill
a Mockingbird
poster, which
moved Teddy. 
As a K-12 supervisor for the Lucas County Office of Education, with her MA degree in hand, she supported the educational programs at Whitmer, Washington and Jefferson Junior Highs, and ten elementary schools. She designed and presented inservices on the teaching of writing for Washington Local elementary, junior high and high school teachers, as well as for the K-12 Language Arts Committee. She was proud of the county-wide inservice training she provided on the writing process, writing across the curricuulm, and grantwriting. 

She calls reading and writing "the warp and woof" of each other.  "There's no way to form the tapestry of literacy without combining reading with writing," she tells me in elegant prose.  In the classroom and as a curriculm specialist, Teddy's teaching helped countless students and teachers perform at their highest level.  Her voice made a difference.  

Teddy continued her commitment to the "warp and woof" of education after she retired. She tutored young children in literacy programs, sponsored by the Toledo Public Library, at the Toledo Day Nursery downtown.  She knew children's literature and gladly shared it with the children.  She served on the founding committee of Bethany House, the long-term shelter for abused women and their children run by the Sisters of St. Francis since 1984. She stood firm on the importance of having a long-term shelter to give women the time they needed to get on their feet.  She volunteered for Women Helping Woman, a program at St. Mary's Church for women working hard to pass the GED.  "They were exceptionally bright women," she recalls, with great fondness. 
At the Old West End Festival a few years ago.
Teddy talking to an old neighbor friend. 

We walked up and down Robinwood, 
the street where we lived.

Now we share the new chapters in our lives. Our children are grown and our grandchildren are thriving. We go to the Toledo Museum of Art, attend lectures at the Franciscan Center at Lourdes college, go to movies and art events, and attend the Toledo International Film Festival (TIFF). We lived on Robinwood Avenue when we were young mothers, and enjoy going to the Old West End Festival. We share a great admiration for Pope Francis, the freshness of his views, his openness to others, his love of our planet and its people everywhere. "Who are we to judge," he reminded us, and we talk about the transcendent application of this wisdom. 

Teddy is also a keen observer of our political life, a passionate democrat and Democrat, informed and thoughtful.  When we approach the subject of the 2016 presidential campaign and the descent into demagoguery, so fraught with emotion, she says these thoughts cross her mind: "Deliver us from evil" from the Lord's Prayer, and "treason."    

"Treason?" I ask. Okay,  we are talking about the Republican frontrunner whose name we can't even say.

"Yes, treason," Teddy answers.  "Because that ignominious egoist, cruel beyond belief, is betraying his country.  He is betraying the trust that we have in our leaders to defend America and to behave with dignity.  His name-calling, his impugning the character of people who are critics or that his fragile ego perceives as critics, is slanderous and treasonous."  

Wow, I think to myself. I think Teddy is on to something. There is something treasonous and blasphemous about the way he slanders the other candidates and people he doesn't like.  

"Maybe Trump should be arrested," I suggest.  Teddy lights up.  "Good idea, Fran!"  We're on the same page, even when we rant. Teddy keeps me on my toes. 

"I still have words in me," she says.  That's for sure! The wisdom of age, and of the ages.  A reminder that elder women have their own special ways of seeing the world, and lots of stories to tell.  

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Women and Politics: A Reminder from the Suffrage Movement

"To get the word 'male' in effect out of the Constitution [put into the 14th Amendment giving former slaves the right to vote] cost the women of the country 52 years of pauseless campaign....During that time women were forced to conduct 56 campaign of referendum to male voters; 480 campaigns to get Legislatures to submit suffrage amendments to voters; 47 campaigns to get State costitutional conventions to write woman suffrage into state constitutions; 277 campaigns to get State party conventions to include woman suffrage planks in party platforms, and 19 campaign with 19 successive Congresses." Carrie Catt, president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1920
Catt's lucid and stunning summary doesn't even touch on the relentless public education efforts in every state across the land and in Washington, DC that accompanied these campaigns.  After all, women had to beg men to give them the vote. It doesn't include the marches and parades, the picketing, the letter writing, the organizational meetings, the strategy meetings, the lobbying, incessant state and federal lobbying, year after year after year.  Setbacks and small victories, one on top of the other. Ceaseless, relentless work for social change.  Anyone who has done such political work knows how hard it is, knows the blood, sweat and tears it takes.  But winning the right to vote, the basic human right of citizens in a democracy, was only the beginning.
Women's Suffrage Parade, Washington, DC, 1915 (Library of Congress photo)
Alice Paul and the National Women's Party picket the White House, a radical strategy at the time, borrowed from England (yahoo image).  Meanwhile, Carrie Catt and the National suffrage association lobbied President Wilson to support suffrage. They eventually got him on board, a way to support  the WWI war effort.
After the last state ratified the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution in August 1920, seventy-two years after the Seneca Falls Convention first put women's rights and women's suffrage on the American political agenda, Carrie Catt, the brilliant strategist who led the arduous battle, shared what she had learned about the political process.

She was at the final "Victory" convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, the last convention before this venerable organization became the League of Women Voters, an "educational" and "nonpartisan" organization that, ironically, did not threaten male privilege.

Catt leads one of the dozens of
Woman Suffrage Parades
held in DC.
Catt stood elegantly at the podium, the battle scars of the struggle etched on her face. She must have felt like Stanton and Anthony, her intrepid predecessors, who somehow kept her on her feet, urged her on. The spirits of Lucy Stone, the Grimke Sisters, Sojourner Truth, the pioneers, filled the room. Catt bowed to the thunderous applause, then raised her voice.  She talked about the campaigns, the Congressional work, the battles in every state, and then she issued a warning. "Do not get diverted from the place where political power is dispensed." It was the warning of a weary but wiser warrior: We won a battle, but the war goes on.

Mrs. Catt had learned, the hard way, how politics works.  "Going to big political dinners, where you will be welcomed, is not enough," she went on. "You need to stay the course,  you need to get to the center."
"If you stay long enough," she said, "keeping your eyes open, you will discover a little denser group, which we might call the umbra of the political party.  You won't be so welcome there as at those big dinners. Those are the people who are planning the platforms and picking out the candidates, and doing the work which you and the men voters will be expected to sanction at the polls.  You won't be so welcome there, but that is the place to be."
She went on, sharing her knowledge of the political process, emphasizing how the system worked and what it would take "to make women's vote count."
"And if you stay there long enough and are active enough, you will see something else--the real thing in the center, with the door locked tight, and you will have a long hard fight before you get behind that door, for there is the engine that moves the wheels of your party machinery....If you really want women's vote to count, make your way there.
It has taken women another 96 years to make their way there, to get to the "umbra" and the "engine room" of the political process.

And now that women have forged their way to the center, step by step, election after election, now that women have achieved some political power in the once all-male bastian of politics, time has stopped.  Are we at the end of the journey for equal rights and opportunities for women? Are we ready for a woman president?

The answer, sadly is "no."  It is still a battle.

Now powerful women are suspect. Part of the corrupt system.  Attacked on the right and left. Not letting men in.  Favoring one candidate over another.  Imagine. How could they? Oh my god, playing politics.

This presidential campaign has, indeed, tapped into a reservoir of racism, as Jimmy Carter recently said, and I would add a reservoir of patriarchy and anti-feminism, too, verging on hatred of women's power.  It is taking its toll.

Now, the politicos. the presidential candidates on the right and left, their followers and many pundits, argue that it's time for principle to take precedence over pragmatism, time for ideals of some sort to take precedence over  working for a qualified woman presidential candidate, a women who has been through battles of her own, vilified, hammered, kicked back, hounded, demonized beyond recognition.

Now it's time for reform that excludes powerful women from the top. Time to get rid of Debbie Wasserman-Shultz.  Time to move Hillary to the sidelines.  Time for male politicians to do their thing, as if women have not been the moving force behind ALL reform movements in our country since the beginning. Yes, women, who have led all major reform efforts, their contributions seldom acknowledged in our history books.

Now breaking the highest glass ceiling of all, we are scolded, should take a back seat to the economic and social reform that our country needs.  As if a woman president at the helm would not take on that fight. As if it would be better to have a man leading any such effort. Stanton and Anthony and Catt must be turning over in their graves.

"It might help," Flexner concluded, "if we remember more often not only the lonely vigils of Washington at Valley Force and Lincoln in the White House, but the doubts and fears that racked Angelina Grimke when she spoke out about slavery and even the seemingly intrepid Elizabeth Cady Stanton when she got up to make her first public speech in the tiny Wesleyan chapel in Seneca Falls in 1848.  Perhaps in learning more of the long journey to equal rights and justice, up to our present time, we can face our own future with more courage and wisdom, and greater hope."

Main source: Eleanor Flexner's Century of Struggle: The Woman's Rights Movement in the United States (Harvard press, 1996 edition; first published 1959).  I wish every citizen would read it, from beginning to end, word for word.


Sunday, May 22, 2016

Remembering My brother Loren

My brother Loren died six years ago today, suddenly, of a heart attack, on his last hike along the Aucilla River in northwest Florida.  I was about as far away as I could be, in eastern Ukraine.  My sister Andy, who also lived in Tallahassee, had to bear the brunt of the shock alone; two nice policemen appeared at her door in the late afternoon of 22 May 2010, bearing the news.  She collapsed in disbelief.  I got a phone call early the next morning, and I collapsed too, in shock. The Peace Corps, thank goodness, I don't know how, got me out of Starobelsk, via a 22-hour overnight train from Lugansk to Kiev, and onto a flight from Kiev to Frankfurt to Atlanta to Tallahassee, the longest and saddest journey I have ever taken.  I was beside myself in grief, a grief that lingers to this day.

Loren believed there were no ends in nature, only beginnings. He wanted us to believe that and I've been trying, with limited success. I want to get a bear hug from him. I want to hear him tell me about his new beginning, if there really is such a thing.

Loren fought all his life to understand and grapple with "a problem that had no name."  He finally learned, when he was in his 50s, after many misses and mis-diagnoses, that he had Asperger's Sydrome; it brought some relief, as well as new meaning and purpose  to his life.  He wrote about it in his autobiography, An Asperger Journey: From Hell to Hope. We were so proud of him.  The book came out three months after his death, as a "memorial edition." It seemed so unfair that Loren was not with us to celebrate his story, to bathe in the accolades he so richly deserved.  Still, as some friends said, he would be glad the book helped so many others who live with their own Asperger journey.  

Loren, Andy and me in Amsterdam
Sometimes I think I hear him say, "Fran, it's okay. I'm okay." I get this feeling that he is above the fray, beyond pain and suffering, free to be one with nature, the Goddess, the angels of peace and justice.

But how I wish he were here, especially now, with all the stuff going on in our country and the world.  Loren would have been fully engaged in the politics and geopolitics of our time. I'm not quite sure where he would come down, but I'm sure he would rant against the incivility of the rhetoric, the jackels' attacks on President Obama, the anger and hatred being whipped up by extremists, the rising demagoguery.  The cult of Trump on the right, the cult of Bernie on the left, along with vicious Hillary bashing  in between, to the point this brilliant, compassionate, accomplished woman is unrecognizable.

Loren had a special perspective on life that, once I saw it and grasped it, I cherished. That's what I miss most of all. That's what I will always miss.
Loren with sister Andy in Athens, GA, on dear family friend Coe Coe's deck (he might also be with Loren somewhere).  It was a stop on a road trip up North to Rochester, New York, where we grew up.  Loren always considered Rochester "home." He loved the natural beauty, the indigenous culture of the Iriquois, and it's women's history.   Andy says over and over, "I'm so glad Loren and I took this trip together." They visited our beautIful house on 301 Landing Road South, too. Loren's wearing a t-shirt he bought in Costa Rica on a trip he and I took together. These trips mean so much now, sustain us. Loren was always an adventurer. It took him all day to travel from Tallahassee to St. Pete to visit me, because he stopped at nature reserves and parks along the way. 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Mostar, Bosnia, and the Scars of Balkanization: "When Will We Ever Learn?"

The Balkans: So many scars of war under such beauty.  The Old Bridge (Stari Most) in Mostar, Bosnia,a UNESCO World Heritage site.  Built by the Ottomans in the 16th century, it was destroyed during the  vicious 1990s Bosnian War and recently restored. Yahoo image.
My friend Jud (we were Peace Corps Volunteers in Ukraine together) just completed a Peace Corps Response tour of duty in Macedonia and is now on what he calls a "Balkan Odyssey."  He is visiting a historic part of southeastern Europe that was formerly the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFEY). He sends fascinating blogs with lots of stories (, then I run to learn more online.

Put together after World War II, Yugoslavia included six socialist republics: Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia. In addition, it included two autonomous provinces within Serbia: Kosova and Vojvodina. Orthodox Bosnian Serbs, Muslim Bosniacs, and Catholic Croats were thus brought together under one roof. The spoils of war.  This melange of ethnic cultures and religions was governed by Joseph Tito, who initially sided with Russia, then broke with Stalin and pursued a policy of neutrality. Somehow or another, under Tito's dictatorship, the various ethnic groups hung together in a precarious but workable balance.

After Tito died, all hell broke loose.  Virulent ethnic nationalism reared its ugly head, and Slobodan Milosevic's Serbia deliberately aimed to destroy Bosnia and Herzegovina as a sovereign state. A vicious war followed, shocking the world with ethnic cleansing, brutal civilian murders, and the systematic mass rape of women.  I remember being baffled and horrified at the time.

Mostar was a battlefield. Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina, was the scene of unfathomable tragedy, which we watched on TV in horror, like a reality show. "Sarajevo was inexplicable: a medieval-like seige in late 20th century Europe, its citizens locked in as Serbs fired cannons at schools, libraries and hospitals, while snipers took aim at people gathering water or attending funerals. Over 44 months, more than 11,000 people were killed and 50,000 wounded." So NPR reported 20 years after the war, in remembrance, the shock as vivid as if it were yesterday.

On top of Sarajevo, there was Srebrenica, a supposedly UN-protected enclave, where the Serbs, under Zdranko Tolimir, slaughtered over 8,300 mostly Bosnian Muslim men a nd boys, and systematically abused and raped thousands of women, children and the elderly. Unspeakable horror.  The worst genocide since WWII.

Thus did a "violent fragmentation" transform the Balkans again from 1991-1995. The term "balkanization," its origin during WWI, took on heightened meaning, and more tragedy.

A bullet-riddled Mostar building,
Getty image. 
The genocide of the Muslims, the mass murders, the mass graves, and the deportation of more than 2 million people eventually led to war crime tribunals in the Hague that brought some Serbs to trial and prison. The scars of genocide and humanitarian disaster, however, run deep and everlasting, like Stalin's enforced deportation of the Tatars from Crimea in 1944, embodied recently in Jamala's award-winning Eurovision song.

Is the end in sight? The vicious nationalism that brought insane "balkanization" and insane catastrophe beyond human understanding in the late 20th century and into the 21st century? With the same damned predictable outcome of all such wars everywhere up to the present since time immemorial?

Nope. No end in sight.  Old wounds are raw, new wounds are exposed, tragedy hovers. The Middle East, Africa, Afghanistan and Iraq, Europe, even here in the US.

Memories of 38,200 civilian casualties, mostly from the Bosnian Muslim ethnic group, and the deaths of some 58,000 soldiers, don't just go away. Gruesome images from Sarajevo, Srebrenica, Mostar, still haunt us, like Jud's photos of bullet-ridden buildings, the graveyards, the reminder from Mostar: "Don't Forget."  But people do forget, and the powerful images and memories don't stop the violence.

That's why it was so disturbing to read that the explosive aftermath of the Balkan war erupted again this weekend, May 14, 2016, in Banja Luka, a Serb enclave in Bosnia-Herzegovina.  The enclave is one of those hybrid creations forged in the Dayton, Ohio, peace treaty that ended the war. The treaty was signed in Paris in 1995, but it seems the necessary compromises to stop the violence did not end Serbian nationalism or the rage and hatred that spell the Balkans.

Milorad Dodik, the macho president of the Bosnia Serb Republic (Republika Srpska), wants "independence" from Bosnia-Herzegovina, and he has his followers. Most Serbs of Banja Luka , however, joined by their Bosnian neighbors, are content to leave well enough alone. No more war. No more ethnic cleansing.  Both sides of the Serbian population came out to protest on May 14. Only a strong military presence prevented bloodshed.

The inhumane, stupid divisions, the senseless violence, the "balkanization" of states into smaller and insecure ethnic enclaves that hate each other, goes on and on.  When will human beings, who are the same everywhere, whose similarities are vastly greater than their differences, learn to get along? When will we ever learn?

Where have all the flowers gone 
     by Pete Seeger, sung by Peter, Paul and Mary (1962)

Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the flowers gone?
Young girls have picked them everyone
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Where have all the young girls gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the young girls gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the young girls gone?
Gone for husbands everyone
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Where have all the husbands gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the husbands gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the husbands gone?
Gone for soldiers everyone
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Gone to graveyards, everyone
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Where have all the graveyards gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the graveyards gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the graveyards gone?
Gone to flowers, everyone
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the flowers gone?
Young girls have picked them everyone
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

Some articles

Ivo Banac, Branka Magae, Bojan Bujiic, and V Domany Hardy, "The Bosnian Catastrophe," NY Review of Books, August 1993.
ar-crimes-the-rapes-went-on-day-and-night-robert-fisk-in-mostar-gathers-detailed-evidence-of-1471656.html  The start of it all, the years leading up to WWI and its aftermath, leading to WWII.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Hey Bernie Fans, you say you want a revolution?

"It's time for liberal progressives to occupy government. We have the momentum and the power. Let's use it. Or we lose it." (Kimberly Johnson, blog in Huff Post Politics, April 27, 2016).

"Agree. I wish Bernie wouldn't just "downsize,"  let his people go, and keep running against the tide, but give his enthusiastic base a state-by-state plan to elect a new US Congress with a Democratic majority that will move the political process toward the changes he says he wants."  
This map from UVA Center for Politics used in Politico article cited below is a good start. The cream colored states are considered "swing" states for the Presidential election, much as in last couple of elections, but it is helpful to apply to Congressional elections too.Those are states where Bernie could harness the enthusiasm of his fan base to elect a Democratic majority in the US Congress on Nov.8, 2016. Other important states for grassroots action are Iowa, Arizona, Minn., Nevada, Florida, Texas, & Wisconsin, and support for candidates in any state targeted by the Koch Brothers & Tea Party obstructionists, such as Catherine Cortez Masto in Nevada.
Hey Bernie fans, you say you want a revolution? Well you're in the right place at the right time. To bring about the changes you say you want, especially in the area of income and wealth distribution, to actually pass legislation and make laws regulating the big banks and big money in politics like the Koch brothers, sanctioned by the US Supreme Court, we need to strengthen the three branches of government: the Executive, the Legislative and the Judiciary.  This is the only way systemic change will happen. If we're all Democrats in this together, believing America is the story of progress toward our ideals, not perfect but hopeful, then we have to stop whining like a Trumpster and work to make this happen.  We need a Democratic majority in the US Congress, a Democratic president, and a progressive and fair Supreme Court that looks and thinks like America in the 21st century.

On November 8, 2016, America will vote for a new president, for all House members, for Senators, and for governors, as well as in many state and local elections. Will we feel the Bern in the states where action is urgently needed? As Kimberly Johnson wrote in the Huff Post,  "If you're truly interested in a revolution, then you will keep the momentum going. You will stay in the game when a battle is lost because the goal is to win the war."

It seems to me that the bottom line for the Democrats and the Bernie enthusiasts is to work state-by-state on every contested election, against every candidate supported by the Koch Brothers, Trump supporters, and Tea Party obstructionists. The mantra should be "A Democratic Congress in 2016."

Obama's presidency, obstructed at every turn by a do-nothing Congress noted for having no alternative policies, no legislation, nothing concrete in the way of options, has shown us how hard it is to get any change whatsoever when an extreme right wing unwilling to compromise controls the House and Senate. The refusal to consider Obama's Supreme Court nomination, obstructionist in the extreme and unconstitutional to boot, is just the most recent tip of the iceberg.  Even John Boehner, former Speaker of the House, sees the rampant dishonesty and pure obstructionism of the Tea Party members, Ted Cruz foremost among them, who would rather shut down the goverment than find common ground. No doubt Obama had to give up the kitchen sink to get Obamacare, and though people rail against him for it, it was, really, the ONLY way he could get it. This is the state of our US Congress today.

Want a revolution? We need to start with this reality. Bernie could develop and lead a game plan for grassroots progressive action from now until November. Bernie's base and Dems working together could help get it done if they really want to increase the chances for positive reform after November 2016. 

I did a little online research just to start thinking about a plan. In the US Senate,  34 of the 100 seats are being contested this November. The winners will serve six-year terms from January 3, 2017 until January 3, 2023. All  "class 3" Senators are up for election; class 3 was last up for election in 2012, when Republicans won a net gain of six seats. Currently, Democrats are expected to have 10 seats up for election, and Republicans 24 seats. Special elections may also be held to fill vacancies. Republicans, having taken control of the Senate in the 2014 election, currently hold the Senate majority with 54 seats. This needs to change if change is what you want. 
In the House of Representatives, all 435 congressional district seats are up for election in each of the 50 states. The whole House up for grabs! Non-voting delegates from DC and the other five territories will also be elected. The winners of this election will serve in the 115th Congress, with seats apportioned among the states based on the 2010 US Census. Think of what a Democratic majority would mean for any change agenda! Tired of political gridlock, Tea Party extremists, and the do-nothing Congress? Get rid of them.
What candidates should a Bern plan be targeting? From what I can gather through a quick online search, here are the Senate Democrats up for re-election who need support: Richard Blumenthal (Conn. Bennet (CO), B.Boxer (CA) retiring ,Patrick Leahy (Vermont),Barbara Mikulski (MD) retiring, Patty Murray (Washington), HarryReid (NEV) retiring, Brian Schatz (Hawaii), Charles Schumer (New York), Ron Wyden (Oregon).

These are the Republican Senators up for re-election:Kelly Ayotte (NH), Roy Blunt (Missouri), John Boozman (Ark), Richard Burr (NCarolina),Dan Coats (Ind) retiring, Mike Crapo (Idaho), Chuck Grassley (Iowa), John Hoeven (N Dakota), Johnny Isakson (Georgia),Ron Johnson (Wis), Mark Kirk (Ill), James Lankford (Okl), Mike Lee (Utah),John McCain (AZ),Jerry Moran (Kansas), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Rand Paul (KY), Rob Portman (OH), Marco Rubio (Florida) retiring, Tim Scott (S Carolina),Richard Shelby (Ala),John Thune (S Dakota),Pat Toomey (Penn), and David Vitter (Louisiana).

Some of these folks are more politically astute than others. No problem. But get rid of the Tea Party and extremists candidates who diss America without any alternative policies. Clean House!

From what I can tell these are the states where there are contested elections for the House: AZ, CA, FL, NH, NV, IL, Iowa, Maine, Minn, NY, TX and WI.

These are the states where there are heavily contested elections for Senator: Nevada, with Harry Reid retiring, Florida, for Rubio's seat, Avotte in NH. There may be others. Sen. Roberts, Kansas, has to go for example.  I think it's really critical to have a Democratic majority in the Senate. Just look at what McConnell is doing to the democratic process by refusing to hold hearings on the President's Supreme Court nominee. Today I saw that Republican Senator Roberts of Kansas is stalling an Obama nominee for Army secretary, who happens to be gay. These guys are among the most anti-American trolls going, dissing America at every turn and undermining democratic principles. Get rid of them.

The Bernie research teams and state teams could get on this now, draw up a plan for action, keep the momentum going. How much stronger a progressive America would be if we had a Congress and a President who worked together. It would also mean a stronger, more modern Supreme Court. Bernie could help make it happen. It's probably the most important change of all.

Some sources: 
--Google "House and Senate Political Rankings at 2016." and "do nothing Congress." Wikipedia has basic information on the electoral process.
-- Why we need a new Congress to bring about the kinds of changes Bernie says he wants.
--http://www.opensecrets.ood/2016elections/fl/Senate-Seats-up-for-Election-in-2016.htmrg/races/  for interesting info on who's getting what financial support, and

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

50+ Years Later: A Joyous Reunion with Old College Friends

Lovely Dataw Island, Cathy's adopted home where she lived with her husband Tom and is an Island historian, preservationist and community leader, so Sarah and I had the best tours of the Island and surrounding Islands around Beaufort. We had an expert tour of the Sams PlantationTabby Ruins; boarded the Santa Elena tall ship that anchored in Port Royal, a reminder of the 16th-century Spanish history of the Islands; walked on the beach under a clear blue sky; visited the pretty town of Beaufort and the Point, a neighborhood of Antebellum mansions and grand Victorians; enjoyed a fantastic "Lowcountry Chamber Music Concert" with Cathy's friend Ann at the Art Center; shared wonderful lunches and dinners with the best conversations imaginable; savored a meal of fresh shrimp right off the boat at Dobson's, which looked like Forrest Gump's shrimp boat! What a special time, a walk down memory lane. 
What's it like seeing your college roommates and closest friends after 54 years? I was nervous about it, but it turns out I didn't need to be at all. It was wonderful, kind of like watching a home movie in fast forward, traveling over time from the innocence and curiosity of young girls at the beginning of life's journeys, to the vim and vigor of old ladies with lots of experiences under our belts and the humor to match.  We reminisced, shared memories, remembered some things differently or not at all, got updated and recharged, laughed a lot, and created new memories to warm our days.

After graduation from Wheaton College in Norton, Mass, where we spent four years together learning, experimenting, and exploring, Cathy and Sarah went off to New York City and I to Madison, Wisconsin. They kept in touch with each other and several mutual friends then and through the years, while I disappeared off the planet.  God knows why I seemed to never look back over a period of my life that was so important, why I neglected to stay in touch with friends who meant so much to me.  I confess to a terrible failing. I'm guilty of inconsiderate and selfish, unkind behavior. Thoughtless youth, yes, but really so incomprehensible. I got into my graduate student days to such an extent I left the past behind.  How could I? Still, Cathy and Sarah were kind and forgiving, and we were happy we finally came together after all these years. I'm reminded of a blessing for old age: "May the light of your soul give you wisdom to see this beautiful time of harvesting..."

And harvesting is what we did. From the seeds of our individual choices and our shared experiences we harvested the gems of our years.  We reminisced under towering and ancient Live Oaks dripping with Spanish Moss, felt the winds of time sweeping across Dataw Island and over the replica of the old cargo ship, Santa Elena, and enjoyed the culture and special beauty of the South Carolina lowcountry around Beaufort. We were all history majors at Wheaton, remembered our wonderful professors and the high caliber of our education, and we understood the complex history and heritage of the place we now shared. Cathy is active in preserving Dataw Island's history and a leader in her adopted home, so we had an expert and knowledgeable guide. We were on the same page politically, too, which made for some great and hilarious conversations.

It was a magical mystery tour on many levels adapted to the aging spirits of three old college friends. We were "red hat" ladies in purple, like in Jenny Joseph's famous poem, making up for "the sobriety of our youth," letting the inner sparks fly freely and with gay abandon.  There's an energy and freedom that comes with age, not to mention some experience and wisdom about life, and we three shared in them with great pleasure.  I tend to go light on "the wisdom" factor, and a bit more heavy on the "life's a daring adventure" side, and Sarah and Cathy do, too. When I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ukraine I used to say, "It's amazing where life takes you, if you take life as it comes."  I still think so.  Life took Sarah, Cathy and I full circle to Dataw Island, SC, and we just let the winds of time fly over and around us, our red hats sailing off into beautiful sunsets and beyond an orange full moon into brilliantly starry nights.