Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘political activism

What does the Fourth of July Mean to You?

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To some, the Fourth of July means freedom.

To some, it just means another holiday to drink, dance, watch fireworks, have a day to themselves…to party, in other words.

But for most, it makes people remember the founding of the United States of America. And they at least remember the War of Independence, if not the difficulty of instituting a peace, then drafting some form of workable representative government and making it stick.

What I think about, though, is how difficult it must’ve been for the Founding Fathers (and, perhaps, their wives, mothers, and sisters) to work together. These were men with towering egos. And they didn’t agree on much of anything. They could be at sword’s point with each other, quite literally, seemingly at the drop of a hint.

Yet these men all worked together — sometimes begrudgingly, granted — to form “a more perfect union,” and agreed that Americans should be able to freely partake in “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

(Notice they didn’t say a perfect union, just a more perfect one. Keep that in mind, please.)

At any rate, these very difficult, but very brave men (and their unsung wives, girlfriends, mothers, and sisters, no doubt), had to deal with all sorts of uncertainty in the War of Independence. They had no idea what peace was going to look like, or even if they could obtain it at all.

Yet they knew they had to fight.

That they won their way to peace, and then to a difficult, fractious, but ultimately rewarding gathering in Philadelphia in 1787, was to their credit.

Sometimes, I wonder if we’ve lost our way, as Americans, as we have to realize that some battles — those of complacency, honesty, fair treatment, fiscal responsibility, and transparency, among others — need to be fought over and over again.

No one can be perfectly trustworthy, you see, as power can corrupt.

In addition, as we’ve also figured out, power can reveal, too. Some, like George Washington, remain virtually incorruptible, and stay the same person before the power as after.

But some are more avaricious, I fear. They see the power, take it for themselves, and then realize, “I can do anything I want, at least for a time.” And thus, they do…to the detriment of many others.

Men like former Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) are a danger to the United States, because people follow them due to their charisma. And those who refuse to follow, such as playwright Lillian Hellman, can be ostracized.

The only thing we can do, as citizens of the U.S. (and the world at large), is to use our brains to think, and think hard. Refuse to be led like lemmings, for one…do your research, for another.

And for the sake of little green apples and whatever Deity you follow, do not let anyone’s charisma make you forget history, or forget how hard it was to form the U.S., or how hard the men and women of the Armed Forces — much less the (seemingly few) honest men and women of the U.S. Congress and various state houses around the country continue to work to keep us free enough to continue to partake in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

See, freedom is not free. It takes work, and lots of it. And it takes compromise from a bunch of towering egos at all times…when we forget that, we are at risk of becoming less than we are.

That worries me greatly.

What gives me hope are the citizens of all political stripes saying to themselves, “Hey, I can do better.” And they’re running for office at all levels, including school boards and county commissioners.

Perhaps these people, who’ve heard the call from their countrymen for people willing to talk, listen, reason, and (I hope) compromise, will do a better job.

Anyway, the Fourth of July to me means that we continue to fight what battles we can, all to keep this land of ours safe to reason, to dissent peacefully, and to solve what problems there are as civilly as possible.

(Because without civility, we are asking for trouble. But you have to know that already.)

So yes, continue to be active, in your way. Talk to others of all political stripes, and try to find common ground. Read a variety of sources, and refuse to close your mind.

That’s the way to form a more perfect union, to my mind. And it’s what we need to remember every day, not just on the Fourth of July.

So, now you know what the Fourth of July means to me. But I’d like to know what it means to you. Tell me about it in the comments, will you?

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Support LGBT Rights: Why the Fight over Indiana’s RFRA Is Important to non-Indianans

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Since Indiana Governor Mike Pence (R) signed into law the Indiana Religious Freedom and Restoration Act (RFRA for short), there has been a firestorm of controversy. Those on the right don’t seem to understand why people are so upset, while those on the left can’t understand why those on the right are so clueless (yes, I’m being polite in my characterization).

So I thought I’d try to break it down for you all as to why I, personally, believe the fight over Indiana’s RFRA bill is so very, very important for everyone.

It’s simple, folks: LGBT rights matter. And the RFRA that the Indiana Legislature passed not only grants individuals and businesses the right to deny anyone anything under the law unless there is a specific reason in the governmental interest as to why the individuals or businesses shouldn’t do it. But gender discrimination apparently isn’t in the “governmental interest.”

What does that mean, exactly? In not-so-veiled language, it means the RFRA as passed by the state of Indiana didn’t give any protection whatsoever to same-sex couples or transgendered individuals. So if you happen to be gay, and you walk into a pizza parlor with your boyfriend in Indiana, you could be denied service with no repercussions (other than most of the rest of the neighborhood shunning you for your utter stupidity, of course).

The reason that business leaders in Indiana, including the Chamber of Commerce and the NCAA (headquartered in Indianapolis), were against the RFRA is because it will keep business away from Indiana. Most people believe that LGBT people are people like anyone else and should be allowed to love whomever they please without anyone giving them problems over it. And the businesses are aware of this.

Or to put it in even plainer terms than this: Refusing to serve anyone anything for any reason in Indiana (or anywhere else) is bad for business. Period.

It’s a sad day when it takes businesses and corporate leaders to tell politicians that something is a bad move for their state. But in this case, their ruthless pragmatism happens to match the growing sentiment that LGBT rights are of profound importance. Most people have at least one LGBT relative or friend. Some, like me, have more than one (I have several, including a transgendered cousin; in addition, my late brother-in-law was gay). And none of them — not one — should be denied service simply because of who they love.

Much less exalting such discrimination under the guise of “religious freedom.”

But I’d rather go back to ruthless pragmatism, here. I want you to consider this from a business perspective. If you are allowed, as a businessperson, to discriminate on the basis of gender, does that mean if I go into a business with my sister, you’re going to deny me service? Or if I go into a restaurant with a friend who’s a retired nun, you’re going to deny me service?

How can you tell what my gender is just because I walk into a restaurant with another woman?

By the way, if my brother goes into a restaurant with a friend who happens to be a Catholic priest (but isn’t wearing his clerical collar), are you’re going to deny him service, too?

Let’s get real. There’s no reason for any business to deny any of us — straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, or Martian — service. Not if that business wants to make a profit. And the businesses know this if they’re smart. Which is why most of them have come out firmly against the RFRA.

I’ve had some friends on the right tell me that much of the hoopla over the RFRA is overblown. There are legitimate religious liberty concerns. There needs to be a way for someone who’s Muslim and wearing a headscarf to not be denied service because of her religion. And there needs to be a way for a Sikh child to not be prevented from wearing his religious dagger (blunted) next to his body when he goes to the public school.

But Indiana’s version of the RFRA goes way too far. It doesn’t just protect people of faith from being able to safely and freely partake in their religion. Instead, it looks as if it’s meant to discriminate against certain classes of people, most especially the LGBT community, on the basis of gender identity alone. And whether it actually will allow discrimination under the law is now irrelevant, as the perception has grown so large that it will that it’s become well-nigh irrefutable.

Or in even plainer, starker language: The belief is that it will hurt LGBT people because it’s OK under the law to do so. Which has de facto created a second-class citizen approach for the LGBT community, or anyone believed to be a part of that community…and that is deeply destructive to the social covenant, at absolute best.

And that, my friends, is why this RFRA is so divisive. It hurts my LGBT friends and family members just by its existence.

And that’s why so many are protesting Indiana’s RFRA.

But it’s law in the state of Indiana, at least for now. Which is why so many people across the United States are vowing not to spend one dime in Indiana until this law is either fixed or repealed.

How any politician can’t understand that’s exactly what would happen before he signed a controversial bill like this into law, as Gov. Pence did last Friday, is beyond my comprehension.

* * * Edited to add:

As of this hour (5:30 a.m. CDT), according to the Indiana Star, a revised version of the RFRA has been drafted. The Star says:

The compromise legislation specifies that the new religious freedom law cannot be used as a legal defense to discriminate against patrons based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The proposal goes much further than a “preamble” that was proposed earlier in the week, and, if it stands, would be the first time any protections against discrimination have been extended to gays and lesbians in state law. But it doesn’t go as far as establishing gays and lesbians as a protected class of citizens statewide or repealing the law outright, both things that Republican leaders have said they could not support.

So it’s one tiny step forward. But it’s not likely, as the Star says elsewhere in its article, to make anyone happy on the left or the right, and more battles loom over LGBT rights in the not-so-distant future in the state of Indiana.

Stay tuned.

Political Activist Sara Johann, Candidate for WI Assembly District 10, Needs Your Help

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Folks, I’m doing something different today. So if you don’t live in Wisconsin, or you don’t have any interest in politics, you may as well tune out right now — I promise, I won’t be offended.

Now, as for the rest of you . . . I had a request from Sara Johann, a brilliant woman I’ve known for several years due to our joint political activism; you see, she is running for Wisconsin Assembly District 10, and is having trouble getting the word out about her candidacy.

Now, I don’t live in District 10. (Think “Shorewood,” and you’re not too far wrong as to where District 10 is in Wisconsin. Take a look at this map from the blog Retiring Guy’s Digest; it’ll give you a good idea.) But I do know Sara. She is a hard-working, principled, honest and forthright person who believes with all her heart that Wisconsin is on the wrong track economically — and she believes if she can get to the Assembly and give the other Assemblymen and women a dose of some good Wisconsin common sense, she can make a positive difference.

This is why she’s running for office.

But because she is not wealthy, and because she’s running against three other Democrats and hasn’t any endorsements, this is very much an uphill struggle. She needs to be able to get out and meet the people of her district, bare minimum; she needs to know them, for them to know her, and traveling around takes money.

Sara is a citizen activist. She is in many ways a moderate. The independents who supported the recall, much less the statewide judicial recount of the race between David Prosser and Joanne Kloppenburg a few years ago, should like Sara if they only can find out she’s out there and shares their needs and interests.

And obviously, most Democrats are going to flock to her if she can get past the actual primary. But they won’t do that if she can’t make a go of it right now.

Personally, I think anyone who has the courage to put her money where her mouth is and run for office deserves to be supported regardless of party. But in this particular case, because I know Sara and know how hard she works — and how strong her commitment is to a better and brighter economy, to marriage equality and social justice and civil rights and safe, legal and extremely rare abortions — I believe she’d be an outstanding member of the state Assembly from her first day in office.

If you worked on the recalls, if you worked on the recount between Prosser and Kloppenburg, or if you just want to support a solid, hard-working Wisconsinite who isn’t made of money but wants and needs to run for office because she’s sure she can make a difference, please consider making a donation to Sara’s campaign at this link. It doesn’t have to be a lot; even $3, if 100 people all decided to give that, would make an enormous difference to her.

And I know there are far more than 100 political activists in Wisconsin who want to see moderate, citizen legislators in office who aren’t beholden to special interests.

Besides, Sara not having any endorsements is actually an asset in an odd way; she’s not going to be beholden to anyone but the voters.

And isn’t that a refreshing change?

So please . . . consider donating to Sara’s campaign. And do help her get the word out that she is running.

Because we need more real, honest, hard-working Wisconsinites in the Assembly. Truly.

(Thus concludes today’s political missive. I’ll be back to baseball and writing and everything else tomorrow, no doubt.)