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MONGERING

Cindy Maddera

Recently I noticed this thing going around Facebook about a man raping a four year old girl and how the hospital where the little girl is getting treatment will get a $1 for every time you share the meme. At the bottom of the meme is a picture of the so-called rapist who just happens to be a young black man. When I first noticed the thing I just ignored it, but the more I thought about the more I could not ignore this. First of all, for any of you who are uncertain about this, NO ONE gets any money every time you share their meme. Bill Gates does not donate $50,000 every time you share something. Bill Gates just donates millions of dollars. Period. 

This is not the part of the meme that bothers me. It just makes me roll my eyes a whole lot. 

Wait. How do I know the meme is a lie besides the obvious "if it looks like a lie, it's probably a lie" reason? I looked it up. The hospital name they use in the meme issued a press statement on their website denouncing the whole thing. It took me less than two minutes to find out this information. I barely had to type my question because Google already knew what I was about to ask. It wasn't difficult. The thing that bothers me the most is how this meme links a horrific act of violence against a child with a man of color, thus perpetuating fear, anger and hatred towards a specific race of humans. The meme is dangerous.

Racist propaganda has been a tool since the invention of print. During World War II, the Nazi's distributed propaganda that depicted Jews as monsters. American cartoonists depicted African American men 'stealing' jobs that should be given to white men who were at war. In fact most cartoons tend to depict non-white characters as dumb, lazy, evil and dangerous. The intent is simple. It is to make you fear and distrust and to see the color white as 'superior' even though we know there is no such thing as a 'superior' race. The problem is that those earlier forms of racist propaganda were so blatantly obvious in their racism with their over drawn features and cliched dialects. The racist propaganda of today is bit more subtle. Tell a horrific story and attach a random picture of any person of color, claiming this person to be the perpetrator. It has become the most hateful and dangerous kind of gossip.  

You know what's more simple than making a racist propaganda meme? Not sharing it.

 

ROAD BLOCKED

Cindy Maddera

I have deleted everything I have written in the past two days. Most of it has been about the current immigration situation. Every time I start writing about the horrific acts of this administration, the post turns into a Hydra with so many snapping, snarly jawed heads. I don't know which head to chop off first. The topic of illegal immigration is complex and messy. There are so many misconceptions of where these migrants are coming from and why they can't just leave their children behind. That last statement, in itself, is such a heartless, thoughtless way of thinking. It is statement made by someone who lacks empathy and any understanding of what it means to have circumstances so bad that they would have to leave their country. 

Many of the families currently trying to enter the US are migrant workers who are fleeing a their country for many reasons. Political unrest, persecution, the need for a job in order to feed their children. Some of these families being torn apart are those who are seeking asylum and have gone through the legal means to do so and they were still separated. 

"Fearing death in the Congo, plaintiff “Ms. L” escaped with her daughter, eventually arriving at a port of entry near San Diego. The mom was given a screening interview with an asylum officer, who determined that her fear of persecution in her home country was credible and that she had a significant possibility of receiving full asylum following immigration proceedings.

Despite that determination, she has been locked away in the Otay Mesa Detention Center near San Diego, while her daughter was sent halfway across the country to a facility in Chicago. When the officers separated them, “Ms. L” could hear her daughter in the next room frantically screaming that she wanted to remain with her mother."

I mentioned on Facebook that it costs around $30,000/year to house and care for an inmate. This does not include the cost of housing and caring for a child. I said that compassion is free. A guy I do not know named Shawn responded to my comment with "No, it's not free. We always pay a price." Shawn is wrong. It costs me nothing to be compassionate. It is easier for me to be compassionate for those less fortunate, those who are struggling, those who are wronged. But I am trying really hard to have compassion for Shawn. I don't know him. I don't know his struggles, but I think if he was treated with kindness he would be more inclined to be kind to others.

This is what I am working on today, having compassion for those who make it difficult. I am also calling my representatives. We, as a nation, are better than this. 

AN EDUCATION

Cindy Maddera

When I was in high school, there was a brief discussion about possibly sending me to Cascia Hall Preparatory School, an expensive private school in Tulsa. The biggest draw for me was their orchestra. It meant that I could play my cello all the time in a real orchestra. Collinsville High School could barely afford a band, let alone an orchestra with stringed instruments. Stringed instruments where instruments of the rich. This discussion of attending Cascia Hall was brief for a couple of reasons: the price of tuition and being held back a year. Cascia Hall would have automatically put me a year behind. My parents really were not sure how they were even going to pay for my college education if I didn't get scholarships. They would have found a way to make it work if I had really wanted to go there, but it would have been a strain on all of us.

I stayed with public education and played my cello in a youth orchestra once a week. When I started my senior year in high school, I took classes at the local junior college to give me a leg up when I started college. The education I received at Collinsville did not prepare for college. Don't get me wrong. It was a good enough education. My teachers (most of them) did their best to teach us with the resources they had available to them. My sophomore history book was my sister's sophomore history book. I know this because she'd written her name inside it. She was five years older than me and the book had not been new when she was a sophomore. The students at Collinsville were used to books with torn covers, a missing page or two, and even a bit of mold growing on the inside. It was not uncommon to not have enough books to check out to all of the students. Meaning, you only got to use the book when you were in class. There was never enough money for new books, band instruments, choir uniforms or even for building renovations. Many of my teachers had second jobs. There was never a time when I was not hawking something for band or choir. We would not have had any of our arts programs without our fundraising efforts. 

This has not changed in almost twenty five years. Many teachers who teach in Oklahoma schools have second jobs in order to make ends meet. They are still teaching with books that are torn and moldy and out-dated. They are still teaching in buildings that are in desperate need of renovation. The teachers of Oklahoma are still doing the best job they can with the resources available to them. The protests are not just about a more than well deserved pay raise. It is about finally making the state of Oklahoma actually value an education for their children. I am a success story of the Oklahoma education system only because I had teachers who pushed me to take those college classes and attend biology camps. When they could not provide me with information and resources that I needed, they found programs outside of the school that could. This does not make Oklahoma teachers unique or special...because they are teachers. This is what teachers do and it is not an easy job. 

You will never be able to convince me that education is not one of the most important parts to our infrastructure. It deserves more funding than our prison systems and our military. This is why I stand by Oklahoma Teachers. 

CONTROL

Cindy Maddera

I was in New York when the latest, yet most deadliest, mass shooting happened in Florida. I was loopy on cold medicine, laying on the couch with Megyn Kelly on the TV. You could feel her anger radiating off of her in waves, just like every parent or human being with a heart. I heard her say "Your condolences mean nothing without action." and I nodded my head in agreement. Since that time, I've watched as people post various memes on Facebook that range from comparisons of this mass shooting with every day in Chicago to requiring voter ID to vote. The fallacy in logic boggles my mind. The voter ID thing sends me off on a major tangent because of hypocrisy. There's something that just doesn't sit well with me to hear a republican in the reddest state in the Union complain about voter fraud. Meanwhile, I live in a very blue county and always, always, always have to show ID for a ballot. Go figure.

It is a common misconception that Chicago has the strictest gun laws in the United States. It is true that the state of Illinois has tougher gun laws and at one point Chicago itself had stricter gun laws. But in 2008, the Supreme Court declared the ban on handguns unconstitutional and their gun registry program ended when the state of Illinois passed a law allowing concealed weapons. Chicago is also very very close to two states that have weak gun laws, thus making it even easier to purchase a gun over your lunch break, making it back to your Chicago office without anyone noticing. Actually, if you look at the Centers of Disease report on Firearm Mortality rates, you will notice that the top twenty states with the highest firearm mortality rates are states that have the weakest gun laws. So please stop using Chicago for an example that gun control does not work.

Another common misconception is that when people like me talk about gun control, we are advocating to take away ALL OF THE GUNS FROM ALL OF THE PEOPLE. For some reason the phrase 'gun control' sounds like an all or nothing solution. Again, this is not the case. Drunk drivers kill people. Do we revoke all vehicles and make cars illegal? No. We take licenses away from the drunk driver. This is a form of safety regulation. Are you mad because you can't drive drunk? I hope not. Gun control makes it harder for the bad people, the mentally unhealthy people to purchase the type of weapon that will kill a hundred people with one round of bullets. What would be even better is if that mentally unhealthy person gets flagged at an attempt to purchase a weapon. Then a mental health advisor is immediately dispatched to that person to help them. 

I do not own a gun and I will never own a gun. I'm not a hunter and I am not mentally prepared to take the life of another human being. So there's no reason for me to own a gun, but I do recognize that this country is made up of a whole lot of rural America who still hunt or use a gun to keep predators from their livestock. I get it, but in this amazing country, the land of opportunity, our children should not have to risk their lives for an education. Doing nothing is not an option. 

 

SEPARATION

Cindy Maddera

Once a month I watched my Dad sit down with his checkbook and write a check for ten percent of his monthly income to be placed in the tithing bowl at Sunday service. He did this every month even during times of financial struggle and instability. Which really, was most of the time I can remember. We lived paycheck to paycheck, just like I do now and just like about 78% of all Americans do today. Our pastor would have special sermons on tithing where he'd preach that if you only have one nickel to your name, you should give that nickel to the church. Occasionally we would hear about the missionaries our tithes went to and occasionally we would even have a special sermon from an actual missionary. Mostly though, our tithing money went to pay for our pastor's salary and upkeep of the church. 

Our paster and his family lived in a nice home and drove an expensive car. Our church owned a couple of buses and vans that picked up people in the community for church service or carted our youth group to the roller rink or bowling alley. There were times when we would all be rounded up to go 'witnessing' in neighborhoods. 'Witnessing' is when you share your personal come to Jesus story with others in hopes that you can convince them to open their hearts to the Lord. I was not good at witnessing, probably because my personal come to Jesus story was just a regurgitation of what everyone's come to Jesus story was. I said the words I was told to say and often they felt false and tasted sour. But I went along with it any way because I had a hard enough time fitting in at that church. We were never rounded up to go help out in soup kitchens or sort clothes for the needy. 

I remember walking into Sunday school one Sunday morning as a teenager and finding the room divided. We were told to pick a side. If you believed in abortion, you sat on the left. If you believed abortion was a horrible horrible thing that should be illegal, you sat on the right. I sat on the left. By myself. I argued that I could never make that kind of choice for another person. I knew there were circumstances that made abortion a necessary choice. I understood the value in quality of a life versus quantity of life. I didn't expect to change minds, but I couldn't with all good conscience sit on the right side of that classroom. This was when things really started to change for me personally with that church. Not long after that Sunday, I received a letter in the mail. I remember being excited at first because I hardly ever found a letter in our mailbox with my name on it. Then I opened the letter and began to read from Anonymous how I was a terrible Christian and that if I didn't change my ways, I was sure to end up in Hell. 

Sometimes I wish I had held onto that letter. Instead, I tore it up and threw it away. I knew that letter was because I had sat on the left side that day. I knew that letter was because I was starting to stand up for the things I believed in. Even if those things were not in line with the views of that church. That letter wiped away any need I had to say whatever needed to be said or do whatever needed doing to fit in. I walked completely away from that church in 1995. I was in my second year of college, but still attending church services when I was home visiting out of respect for my parents. Chris was with me and we were sitting in on the College and Career class. We sat there and listened with shock about how we should never question authority, because God put that person in authority. We left that Sunday school class and kept on walking. I never looked back. Our so called church family didn't really seem to miss me either and I'm okay with that. 

The Johnson Amendment was started in 1954 to prevent non-profits from endorsing or opposing political candidates. This means that non-profits can't financially contribute either way towards an election. Republicans have been trying to repeal this for years and they may finally do it with this new tax plan. Their argument is that it restricts free speech.

Corporations, and any community chest, fund, or foundation, organized and operated exclusively for religious, charitable, scientific, testing for public safety, literary, or educational purposes, or to foster national or international amateur sports competition (but only if no part of its activities involve the provision of athletic facilities or equipment), or for the prevention of cruelty to children or animals, no part of the net earnings of which inures to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual, no substantial part of the activities of which is carrying on propaganda, or otherwise attempting, to influence legislation (except as otherwise provided in subsection (h)), and which does not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office

In 2004, the state of Oklahoma had two particular State Questions on the ballot. The first was State Question 705 that would allow the state of Oklahoma to create a lottery commission. The other was State Question 711 that would define a marriage as one man and one woman. Both State Questions passed by 65% and 75% of the vote respectively. When I asked my mother how she had voted on these issues, she said that she voted in favor of both. Her reason for voting 'yes' on SQ711 was that she was voting the bible. The hypocrisy of her answer riled me. It still does, but I know that her voting decisions were highly influenced by the church. You see, along with those sermons that our Pastor would give about tithing, he'd also give about who to vote for and how to vote. The Johnson Amendment did not restrict our Pastor's free speech. It just restricted how he could spend the money we gave to him every week in tithes. 

The removal of the Johnson Amendment means that the money a person tithes can and probably will go to fund political campaigns and inflammatory advertisements against certain candidates. When I think about this, I think about the church I was raised in and how they would be spending my tithe. I remember sitting in a divided room. I remember getting the hate mail. I remember the hypocrisy of a church that preaches against equal rights while at the same time endorsing gambling. The hypocrisy of choosing pieces of the bible to follow and ignore. As a child I was delusional and believed that the dollar I placed in the tithing bowl was going to feed the hungry, that my money was going to help someone in need. Now I'm just sickened by the thought of how my tithe would be used today.

MANAGMENT

Cindy Maddera

I have mostly stopped posting news articles about the daily atrocious behavior of this administration to my Facebook timeline. Some of you who agree with my views may have the impression that I have given up or I'm not angry. Oh...I'm angry. I'm angry a whole lot of things: gun laws (as in we do not have any and the human population has shown that they're too stupid to own a gun), tax reform that's going to make it even harder for young adults to pay for college and graduate school, the constant threat of so many people losing their health care, outrage at the men accused of sexual harassment and the lack of outrage over a president that sexually harasses and is generally horrible to women, the Russians, the science denial and now...the elephants. All of it makes my belly burn with rage. I think it's the hypocrisy of everything that frustrates me the most, particularly with the sexual harassment cases. One of the worst men notorious for sexual harassment and the general awfulness in how he treats women is currently sitting in the white house as acting president. 

Women voted for that man. I can't see the logic in it and it hurts my brain to try to figure it out.

This country is pretty ugly right now. We were watching Sarah Silverman's I love you America on Hulu recently. She was talking about all the sexual harassment cases to come out and how we need this to happen even though it is painful and ugly. She said it was like excising a tumor. I felt that her words applied to everything happening in America right now. We are in the process of excising so many different kinds of tumors and it is ugly and it is messy. I know from personal experience because one of my research jobs involved removing tumors from mice so we could study them. It was the worst part of that job and that job, in itself, was awful. America has some pretty ugly awful tumors that have been festering for some time like sexual harassment and racism and just general hate for the sake of hate. These tumors are not easy to remove because they have become twisted into the infrastructure of America with filopodia reaching deep. We have to be prepared that excising these kinds of tumors is going to be difficult and painful and we might not even get all of it in this go around.

Through all of it, I have been wondering what roll I play in the ugliness of today's America. The Cabbage loves watching that show called Brain Games and we watch episodes while eating dinner some times. On one episode, a man dressed up in a suit and tie and hung out at a mall with camera man and mic. He told people he was with the National Geographic News and then he would ask a question like "The congress just passed a bill that would limit people in the poverty level to one child. What do you think about this?" None of the people he talked to questioned the source of information or whether or not this was even true information. They went right on in to outrage mode. I looked over at Michael and said "the first thing I would have asked for before answering any of his questions was for sources." This is how rumors and hearsay become 'news', but because the man is wearing a suit and tie and says he's from the National Geographic News, people felt they could trust what he was saying. Then it dawned on me what it was that I could possibly do to help with removing America's tumors.

My job is to question everything and encourage others to question everything. I can post factual news stories, but it doesn't do any good if the people who needs to read them are not reading them. And those people do not trust my news source. So I need to encourage them to question everything they hear or read. Look it up! Do your research! Don't rely on Facebook feeds for your news. Don't take my word for it or your BFF's word for it. YOU do the research. My second job is to be compassionate to others even if that other person makes it so hard to be compassionate to. I think that's the hardest job, but the one that will pay off the most. It is my hope that compassion and kindness becomes more contagious than hating people because of their skin color, religion, or sexual orientation. It is my hope that this compassion and kindness leads to empathy and respect.

Most of all, I want this country to heal.   

 

AMERICAN

Cindy Maddera

The Huffington Post Bus that is currently touring the country collecting stories, was here on Tuesday. I thought about going, but got too busy with work to really sneak out for an hour. They were asking people what they think it means to be an American. I thought about this question all day. It rolled around like a marble in my head and every time it would land in one spot, I would think that I had an answer. Though, really, I don't know what it means to be an American any more. The Cabbage was reading one of her science readers on the way home from our camping trip. I looked over at it to see she was on a page illustrated with underwater pod systems for living under water. I said "Oh, is that how you think we're going to live when the sea levels rise." The Cabbage replied "I was just reading about rising sea levels on the page before this one!"

This is when I looked at her and said "I am so sorry." I went on to explain that I have done my best, but that I was sorry that it wasn't enough. We're leaving her with a mess of a planet. This conversation all took place before I had read about Pruitt's repeal of a major carbon emissions rule and more tweets from a president encouraging a nuclear war with North Korea. While he's distracting most with outrage over peaceful protests, this president is pushing a tax plan that will hurt the middle and lower class, pushing health care reform that will make it so that employers heath coverage will no longer cover birth control and poking nuclear weapons with a stick. He continues to fuel the fire that divides this country. 

The word 'American' conjures up some pretty unflattering and negative thoughts. This is a country of people who owned other people. This is a country that stole land and resources from native people. This is a country where we have suppressed the rights of others. At the same time the word 'American', for me, also conjures up feelings of perseverance. We are hard workers. We are innovators. We all come from or are immigrants who came to a country for a better life and in the process managed to help build a better nation. We've let ourselves forget about the amazing things we can do in this country when we work together. We salute a flag and say a pledge more out of habit than true devotion. The Pledge of Allegiance is something we learn early. We say it so many times, I wonder if over time the words have just lost value. You know how you can say a word over and over until it no longer sounds right? 'Hot in Topeka' suddenly becomes 'I'm a hot toe picker.' I think that's what's become of our pledge. We've forgotten the part about liberty and justice for all. 

Being an American means truly meaning that part about liberty and justice for ALL and doing what is needed to make that happen. It means having strength and not just sitting around, hoping for a better future for our children, but actually getting my hands dirty to make it a better future. It means calling my senators daily, being truly informed on ballot issues and voting. It means doing what I can to ease the burden we have put on this planet and it's resources. It means using my voice to speak out against injustice and racism. It means setting a good example as a smart and talented woman, showing little girls that they can do anything. ANYTHING! 

Being an American is hard. 

 

RACE CARD

Cindy Maddera

Yesterday, a Facebook friend posted about watching the news while sitting at the car dealership, waiting for an oil change. She said that there were two other people in waiting area with her, a woman with her teenage daughter. In the middle of all the news coverage, the teenager looked at her mother and said "you know, if this were about 20,000 black men at a concert, no one would care." The woman who wrote the post went on to describe how she was outraged and angered by the teenager's comment and implied that her mother should teach her daughter to keep such comments to herself. The woman said that this (in regards to the Las Vegas Mass shooting) was a heart issue, not a race issue. The first responder to this comment whole heartedly agreed, stating that she was so tired of 'them playing the race card.' Another commenter asked if the teenager was white. The woman responded the teenager was 'mixed something' but she hadn't really looked at the young girl. 

I read through the whole thing and felt ill. I don't really know this woman. We knew each other in high school, but that's about it. I started to write a comment, but in the end I just hid the posting from my news feed.  I didn't see the point of trying to explain to her how her Facebook posting was an excellent example of white privilege. Sure, the Las Vegas shooting is not about race (necessarily) but that teenager brings up a really good point on how this society talks about violence and race and how these issues are portrayed in the media. Elizabeth Smart, a fourteen year old white girl, was abducted in 2002. Her story made national headlines. That same year, Alexis Patterson, a seven year old black girl from Milwaukee, was abducted while walking to school. Her story was a blip in the news. We've seen police video after police video aired on the nightly news of officers shooting unarmed black men, but in 2012 we all watched as James Holmes was taken alive after opening fire in a movie theater. There is a habit of referring to a white person who opens fire on other civilians as a mass shooter, while a person of darker skin would be called a terrorist. 

All this young person has ever seen and heard is the disparate way in which race is discussed in this country, where the president will not condemn neo-nazi's but will call peaceful protestors 'sons of bitches.' She sees a country who does not care about black people. We have showed her that this is a country that does not care about black people. Yes. I say 'we'. Because we all play a roll in this. Instead of being outraged that this young girl doesn't know how to keep her mouth shut (or keep her place, is also how I interpreted that comment), why not ask what would prompt her to say that? And then listen, really listen, to her answer. Or maybe instead of biting your tongue, you could have said "I would care. This is a horrific and senseless act of violence that no one should ever have to experience no matter what." This woman missed an opportunity show empathy and start an important conversation that could have led to understanding on both sides.

Instead she chose to 'bite her tongue' and spew her anger out on social media. And why shouldn't she? I mean, our (not mine) President of the United States engages in this behavior every day. He sets the example. It's just that some people haven't thought about how maybe this is not the example we want set. Maybe we're better than that. Maybe that's all I'm asking of that woman because I want to believe she's better than that. I want this country to be better than that. 

 

 

WE ARE ALL WELCOME HERE

Cindy Maddera

Last night, Michael and I went to see U2's Joshua Tree Tour with Beck. I had scored some free tickets with seats way way way at the top of the stadium. I didn't care. I had never seen Beck perform live and I had already heard how amazing the Joshua Tree Tour was. It didn't matter that they all looked like ants. That's the thing about concerts, particularly those of this size and magnitude. They always manage to pull every soul in to praise. And it was beautiful. There was one moment when all the lights were turned off and the stadium became a sea of cell phone lights. From our vantage point, we could see it all and I started laughing and crying at the same time. Before Beck left the stage, he warned us that when U2 came out and started singing those first seven songs we would have feelings. He said chills will crawl up our arms and we would be filled with all of the feelings. 

Beck was not wrong. 

"We are all welcome here" Bono told us this last night. His words stick in my brain today, particularly after reading this morning's headlines. This country is starting to look more and more less welcoming. We have a President who condones white supremacy; in fact owes his presidency to white supremacists. He has issued a ban on Muslims, a ban on Transgendered in the military and an end to DACA, the program that protected immigrants brought here as children. Those immigrants are now at risk of being forcibly removed from the only home they have ever know. The Secretary of Education has rolled back Title IX which would withhold federal dollars to Universities who did not combat sexual harassment because Title IX was too harsh for the accuser. Trump has hired Eric Dreiband to lead the Justice's Civil Rights Division, a man notorious for fighting efforts to support Civil Rights. 

I have seen so many posts of outrage recently over the football players who take a knee during the National Anthem. Some of you get really really angry about this. I mean, my own mother made the comment about how "they should go back to where they came from" if they refuse to stand for the National Anthem. Except the 'they' whom she is referring to are Americans. They are young men who have taken to sitting down or taking a knee during the National Anthem as their peaceful protest against a government that does not support civil liberties for ALL Americans, a government that supports white supremacy and a country that does not value their lives.

But it causes you so much anger because they won't stand for a song. 

We are not all welcome here. 

CYNICAL

Cindy Maddera

I was reading this article from the Times recently. It discusses the history of food stamp and SNAP benefits fraud. I looked it up while I was thinking about writing an entry about something else, which I will get to eventually. Did you know that there is less than 1.5% fraud in SNAP benefits today? We hear repeatedly about how our tax dollars are being waisted on people who just want to take advantage of benefits. The USDA reported that as of May of this year, there are about 44 million Americans using the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). So less than 1.5% of that is acquiring SNAP through some sort of devious means such as using a dead person's social security number. Another way of abusing SNAP is buying non-eligible food items and the only way to do that now is to have a store willing to sell those products. 

We are a cynical nation of human beings. We instantly think that someone less fortunate than ourselves are just lurking in the background to take advantage or steal. I often wonder if that cynicism comes from a self knowledge of their own behavior. If given the opportunity or put in the same shoes as someone on SNAP they would take advantage of the system. My yoga teacher, Karen, said something once that sticks with me to this day. She said that when you look at someone and think they are judging you, it is really just a reflection of the judgments you have of yourself. This is something I think of when I hear my mother complaining about some woman or other who looked at her a 'certain way'. I refrain myself from saying that there is no way she can read that woman's mind and know that she is even thinking anything at all. We assume that other people are thinking the worst about us because we are already thinking the worst of ourselves.

Which brings me to my original thought on Trump's ban on Transgenders in the military because I have heard the critics who say that Transgenders only want to be part of the military for free sex-reassignment surgery. Trump's ban also includes a stop on re-assignment surgery for active personnel. And to those critics and Trump I'd like to say this: Shut your judgmental, unchristian, hateful mouths. First of all, being in the military is not easy to begin with.  I don't want to do. I surely respect those who do, but I'm a wimp. The food alone would kill me in two days. It's not just the constant drills and bad food that makes being in the military difficult either. There are deployments that take you away from your loved ones for years on end. There is also the constant threat of being shot or blown up and not making it home to those loved ones. People join the military for a number of reasons besides the desire to protect this country. Chris joined the medic crew in the National Guard purely for the sign on bonus. He was a terrible medic, couldn't stand the sight of blood, but it was a job. Some people just need a job. What about those soldiers who joined knowing that the government would pay for their college education? Isn't that taking advantage of the situation? 

It takes something special for a person to just step up and volunteer to serve this country, regardless of their need for a job or financial aid. Should it really matter if that person is straight, gay, bi, or Transgendered? I mean, why not continue discriminating and add religions to that list? The people who join the military are risking their lives to make your life safer. We should be doing everything in our power to make their lives easier when they are home. They should have access to state of the art health care. They should have paid scholarships to top universities. They should be able to walk off the plane from deployment and straight onto a good paying job. They should have the best mental health care and you know what? If they want gender reassignment surgery they should get it. Because they stepped into the line of danger so I wouldn't have to. 

This should be true for ANY person who chooses to serve this country. 

RISING SEA LEVELS

Cindy Maddera

Some times I lie in bed wondering if I paid the bills and how much money we might have in our checking account. These thoughts are followed with worries about my credit card debt and a silent vow to stop using my credit cards. Then I start thinking about different projects at work and the contaminant that keeps showing up in my nanobody staining experiments. The nanobody thing is taking up a large amount of brain space right now. (Last night I dreamed that I was presenting a poster on that project and there was no bathroom handy. So I peed under the poster.) I worry about those people who are less fortunate than I am and who are going to lose their health insurance. Then I wonder if those people even realize that they voted to lose their health insurance. My concern then turns to that young man at a rural middle school who's education is going to be wrecked because school vouchers will pull funding from his school. I worry about how to communicate with people who voted for this current president. 

I worry.

My biggest worry, the thing that really makes me feel the need to breath into a paper bag, is climate change. My reality is that I am always going to be concerned about my finances. So that worry is never going away, but I have a good job with really really good health care. I am not in danger of losing my health care.  Yes, all of the coming changes sucks for the younger generation. All I can say is that I voted in your favor. Sorry. Not all Americans see each other as equals and there's a religious faction that truly believes this country lawfully should be praying to their god and playing by their rules. Actually, this current administration has made it very easy for me to be a selfish human being because I am not going to be hit too hard by the cruel policies that they are in the process of passing. But Climate Change? I can't be selfish about that. 

We are losing Antarctica piece by piece. The latest bit to fall off was the size of Delaware. Scientists can't say for sure how this new iceberg will effect already rising sea levels, but they can say that it has caused serious damage to the ice shelf that is holding back land ice. The more land ice that falls into the ocean, the higher the sea levels. Those of us living in the middle of this country, even rural areas, may not fully grasp the detrimental effects of climate change and rising sea levels. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina displaced 400,000 people. This article has some really good visuals on where all of those people ended up. Those 400,000 people were one city and many of those people were able to eventually go back to their home. Now imagine if that number was 13 million. That is the number of people who stand to be displaced by rising sea levels. 13 MILLION. These people will be permanently displaced, meaning that they will not be able go home. Ever. Think about how this changes your landscape. More people in your rural town means more housing, less space. This will mean more kids crammed into already over crowded schools. Then we have to consider what this kind of displacement means for employment. These people are going to need jobs. Are you willing to give them your job? We have a lot of empty land that we use for growing crops. Will we still have the luxury of keeping that land free for farming?  

I have read my scripture. I do remember something about God telling Adam to be a good steward, to take care of the land and it's animals. I can't help but think that if God really does exist, he's got to be pretty disappointed in the human race (for more than just how we treat the environment). I do what I can. I recycle and pick up trash. I try to buy local and or sustainable foods. When I ride my bicycle, I am riding not so much for fitness but because it is better for our air. I can request that the energy that turns the lights on in my home does not come from burning coal, but comes from renewable sources. My efforts are a drop in the bucket. This is why I vote in favor of environmental protections and regulations that not only protect the environment but the people living in that environment.

Isn't taking care of this planet the 'Christian' thing to do?

SPLIT

Cindy Maddera

There are things about the places we drove through while on vacation that I have not been able to shake. I mentioned before that we saw a lot of rural America. We also saw a lot of signs supporting Trump and proudly flying Confederate flags. We saw many well lived in houses that looked like they were standing only out of habit. We were probably the only actual campers in the campground we stayed in at Mark Twain National Forest. All of the travel trailers were settled in and had been there for some time. A few of them had full sized refrigerators strapped to the outside of the camper. One or two had their own shed. I was raised in rural Oklahoma. I've seen my fair share of rundown homes with a few cars sitting on blocks in the yard. This is not a new sight for me to see. It just struck me that I was seeing so much of it outside my home state. 

I was reading the New York Times the other day and there was an article on the impact this new health care reform bill will have on the people of Kentucky. Most of the people in that state rely on Medicaid to help pay for insurance and medical costs. The Affordable Care Act gave insurance to people who had never been able to have insurance before. This is important since Kentucky is in the midst of an opioid and a black lung epidemic. It also brought jobs to Kentucky. More people with healthcare means more doctors, health care facilities, and staff to run those facilities. The ACA brought jobs to a state who desperately needed jobs. Mitch McConnell, who is one of the biggest supporters of this reform bill, hails from Kentucky. The people of that state voted for him. This is a population who support and vote for a political party that does not have their best interest in heart. And I don't understand the logic behind this. 

Part of it comes from a lack of information. While driving across rural Missouri, Michael flipped through the radio stations and we came up with four different religious channels, one 80s rock station and three country stations. We did not once stumble across the closest NPR station. Which left me wondering. How do the people out there get unbiased, real fact news? I'm not talking about opinion pieces. Just the actual story and events that are currently taking place. Yes, those news outlets exist. It is why I have a subscription to the New York Times, but also follow other news outlets in order to get a wide range of information. Many Americans are being distracted by a President who is the most vile and hateful cyberbully in the U.S. He's misogynistic and vain. His cabinet meetings are not about coming up with strategies to help the average American, but are all about inflating his ego with praise. But none of this matters. 

Because while this President is distracting you with his awfulness, the Republicans are moving forward with agendas to take away health care from 22 million Americans, cut Medicaid and suspend all funding to Planned Parenthood. The real problem is this current group of Republican men in office have made it abundantly clear that they do not care about your well being. 

Call your Representatives and your Senators. 

THE HANDMAID'S ANXIETY

Cindy Maddera

I've been watching the Handmaid's Tale on Hulu and during each episode, I tell myself that I'm not going to watch any more of it. Each time I watch an episode, a ball of anxiety starts growing in the pit of my belly. It is all too plausible. Sure there are many out there who would say that the plausibility of the show is an overly dramatic statement. I will admit that Margaret Atwood's dystopian (near) future is dramatic and easy to look at and say "There's no way our society would come to that." But it is not the depiction of things to come that causes the anxiety. It is the depiction of how this dystopian future came to be that jolts me the most. 

It starts out small and quiet, women's rights slowely and quietly stolen in the night. You start to see an attitude shift in how some view independent women. There is a vileness and anger in their attitude. A woman walking down a sidewalk on her own elicits slurs. Whores. Sluts. It is an anger I recognize and have witnessed very recently, in the year leading up to the election. My memory flashes to that man in the German deli that Michael and I had run in with. I can still see his face, his cheeks flushed pink with his anger. He is part of a group of men who support this current administration because they believe their religion and white skin entitles them to something more than to those different from them. 

The women show up to work one morning only to be told to go home. A law banning women from working, owning property or money was passed in the night. You'd like to think that things would never come this far here, but right now there are twelve senators deciding the fate for our health care and not a one of them is a woman. The latest health care reform includes rape and pregnancy on the pre-existing condition list that Insurance companies do not have to cover or can charge you more to cover. It takes away free birth control, which does more than prevent pregnancy. For many women who use it, birth control lessens the sometimes debilitating symptoms of menstruation. There is a large portion of Americans who voted for Trump for one specific reason. They believe he will make abortions illegal. They care about nothing else like environment, education, health care. The most important issue to them is to take away a woman's right to choose what she does with her body. 

It is not just the misogyny that bothers me. This fictitious society hangs people for being homosexual. They hang people of religions other than their own. Catholic priests. Jews. Muslims. You see them hanging from ropes. Hang any one different. This administration threatens to appeal gay marriage laws and some states have started passing legislature that would make it impossible for a gay couple to adopt and care for a child. Trump campaigned on a promise to ban Muslims and to refuse refugees. He campaigned on promises of hate and discrimination toward people who are different and a large portion of this country agreed with this and said "yes! He is the best choice for our country!" So it's not so hard for me to see how it easy would be for our society to turn into something similar as to the one represented in the Handmaid's Tale. 

The Handmaid's Tale is a cautionary story of how dangerous it is not vote, to not pay attention. It is a reminder that we can be better and it is a reminder to have hope for better. It is a reminder to call your senators, to flood their office with letters and phone calls, urging them not accept a health care reform bill that makes insurance impossible for those with pre-existing conditions. It is cautionary tale that reminds us to NEVER stop fighting against misogyny, racism, homophobia and discrimination. 

WHY I MARCH

Cindy Maddera

It is estimated that almost three million people came together on Saturday to show support for women and women's rights in cities all across the country. The crowd at the Women's March in Washington D.C. was estimated to be three times bigger than that of the crowd attending the inauguration. It was the largest protest in US history. It was estimated that more than six thousand people attended the Women's March in KCMO and I was one of them. I stood in a sea of women, men supporting wives, daughters and sisters, and families. We stood in support for equality, for our bodies/our choice, for the environment, for respect. 

You can do anything. Grab 'em by the pussy. You can do anything.
             - Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States

I watched my Instagram feed and Facebook newsfeed fill up with images of friends posting images of their own from the marches they attended and it was beautiful and inspiring. Tucked in between all of them was a post from a woman I know from high school. It was a long entry about how she has never been made to feel like a second class citizen. She has always had her voice heard. She has always had control over her body. She has had every advantage and her belief is that if you haven't had all of the above, well...that's your own damn fault. Her posting pointed out that women in other countries have it far worse than we have here and that the women attending the Women's Marches were whiners. Later on, I discovered that her post had been removed due to plagiarism. She had copied and pasted words written by another woman. There's some irony in a person claiming to have her own voice, using the words of another.  

First of all, I want to congratulate this woman and all of those who feel this way. I am so happy for you that you have been able to live with such privilege. That's not sarcasm. You have been lucky and privileged. Really, I can say that I have also lived a similarly privileged existence with only some mild misogyny in the work place. For the most part, I've been pretty lucky to work with people who value my work more than my gender. I realize that this is rare since I am in a male dominated field, but I didn't take part in the Women's March just for myself. I marched for those women in this country who have not been so privileged. I marched for the mother who works two jobs who has to choose between getting her yearly pap smear and mammogram or buying new shoes for her child. I march for the that same woman who's closest clinic had to close down because of budget cuts and now has to try to get to a clinic on the other side of town, probably by bus, without missing work. 

I march for the LGBTQ community whose jobs and housing will be put in jeopardy with the Federal Amendment Defense Act. I march for my gay friends who are married who are at risk of having that marriage now be invalid or those who wish to marry being denied their basic civil right to marry. I march for immigrants who are at risk of having their families torn apart by deportation. I march for immigrants who could be taken away from a life they have worked so hard for. I march because I recognize that life for women in other countries is worse and I even march for the woman who posted the anti-march letter. I march in solidarity with other women in the belief that we are deserving of respect and equality, not just from our employers or our partners, but from our President.

It doesn't really matter what (they) write as long as you've got a young and beautiful piece of ass   
       - Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States

 

It is our responsibility, particularly now under this current administration, to assure our daughters and sisters that they hold more value than being an ass to grab or a trophy. The U.S. sets an example globally and we have responsibility to hold that example to its highest standard. This is not whining. This is a battle cry and it doesn't just start and end with a march. I will continue to shout and scream for what is right. The website for the Women's March is proposing ten action over the next one hundred days. I've already sent my postcard to my Senator. I have a feeling my Senator is going to get real tired of my voice this year.

 

CORE VALUES

Cindy Maddera

Last week, as I was scrolling through facebook, I noticed that someone had posted an article from FOX News about this video that has been put together by Humanity for Progress. I'm going to give you a minute to watch it because I believe that you should actually watch the video before you make comments or assumptions about what the video is about instead of what ever the 'news' tagline says. 

I've only seen one other person share this video as a positive message. The others who have posted it have posted it with negative comments such as how the people in the video are just whiney babies. One comment that has stuck in my toe like a thorn was someone who said "who are they to tell us what our core values are?!?" 

Who are they to tell us what our core values are?

For years I have been listening to the alt-right loudly try to dictate their core values onto me. I have watched as they have lobbied for having their bible taught in public schools, dictated what I can and can't do with my body and declared who should and should not have basic civil rights. Really, honestly, what that person's comment about this video not representing his core values tells me is that he thinks racism is A-okay and doesn't need attention. He thinks that it's quite alright to slap a woman on the ass and call her 'doll' and that her place is in the kitchen making his sandwich. He thinks that homosexuals should stay in their closets and that religions other than his own should be banned. His core values sound pretty disgusting. Those people like him have also done their fair share of whining. Those people are the forty six percent of this country who voted for Trump. As a member of the forty eight percent who did not vote for this man, here is something I think you, as a forty sixer, needs to know. 

We are scared and our fear holds value. A man who campaigned on a platform of racism, misogyny, homophobia, exclusion and hate is now our president elect. He has chosen a VP who thinks homosexuality is a disease that can be 'cured' by aversion therapy, a therapy that includes shock treatments and other tortures. Trump has appointed two well known racists to his cabinet. His choice for Secretary of Labor is a guy who opposes raising the minimum wage and is also against paying for overtime. (Way to vote against your best interests there, forty six percenters.) The guy he picked to head up the Environmental Protection Agency doesn't even really think we should have an EPA. And before you think we don't need an EPA, I want you to consider the water that comes out of your taps and the air you breathe into your lungs. The EPA's mission is 'to protect human health and the environment'. You really think we should get rid of an agency that wants to protect you from lead poisoning and smog?

You may believe you voted for Trump because you believe him to be a good businessman and you think that's what this country needs, but that is not the platform he campaigned on. Maybe you even fell for that whole 'Make America Great Again' slogan, but did you even stop and consider the 'again' part of that slogan? What do you mean by making America great again and to what great part of the American timeline do you want us all to go back to? Segregation? Before women had the right to vote? Slavery? That time we stole all the land from the Native Americans? You see, that's part of the thing that scares us. We don't know how far back you want to take us. 

But what you also fail to see is that the people in that video are not whining. They are giving you a warning. We are not going to stand for racism, misogyny, homophobia, exclusion and hate. We are going to hold those who do allow for those things accountable. We will not be silenced. We will not back down. 

 

THE ENCOUNTER

Cindy Maddera

Michael and I were out killing time before we went to dinner on Saturday evening. We had reservations to eat our weight in sushi for six and we had just been wandering out most of the day looking for mushroom paste. Finally we stumbled into a tiny little grocery store that specializes in German foods. Werner's specializes in german sausages and deli meats. They also have racks of chocolates and mustards. I convinced Michael to try the liverwurst. He was skeptical, but once he tasted it, he declared it to be delicious. The woman behind the counter smiled with delight and said "Oh good! I make it here myself." We  passed more pleasantries back and forth. I told them about how my old boss, who is German, ordered us lunch from here once. I couldn't eat anything but the potato salad and pickles, but those things were wonderful. I could have eaten all of the pickles. 

Then I was trying tell them my old boss's last name, except all I could do was spell it because I realized that I had never had to say his last name out loud. When you spell it out it sounds something like "wine-grab". Michael looked at me and said "That can't be his name. That sounds like a member of Trump's cabinet." We all laughed, but then this man standing behind Michael says in a very hateful tone "your mother." We pause, both of us slightly confused. In fact Michael even asks "what?" The man repeats himself "your mother." It takes Michael a minute but then he gets it and says "Ohhh...you're equating my stupid Trump joke to my mother. Okay." Then Michael turns to the man and asks "Are you upset about something?" The man narrows his eyes. His skin is that kind of white that flushes pink when embarrassed or angry. He looks at Michael and says "Only with you." You could feel the anger and hate radiating off him in waves and I felt my heart leap a little sideways in my chest with fear. 

I finished paying for our things and looked at the people behind the counter with sincerity as I said "thank you so much, we can't wait to come back." Michael looked at the angry man and said "whatever man." and we headed out the door. At the last minute, I yelled out a "God bless you" as I stepped out. My heart was racing and I was still a little in shock about the whole encounter. I hadn't seen it coming. Neither one of us had been prepared for such an encounter. It never even dawned on me that I would even be involved in such an encounter, which I know is naive. The bubble I was living in burst with this moment and I have not been able to get it out of my head. Michael and I joke about it now, answering each other's questions with "your mother." We were on the Kansas side when this happened and now when we are in that area we refer to it as "out of the blue." We'll warn each other "hey...be careful. You're out of the blue here."  

I've thought of a million things I could have said to that man instead of just standing there in shock. Mostly though, I feel sorry for him. I pity his life that is so miserable that an innocent dumb joke could set off so much anger. I also wanted to tell him to get ready to be really angry at jokes for the next four years, because our President Elect practically writes the jokes himself. Have you seen his Twitter feed? Comedy is how some of us are going to be able to deal with ridiculousness to come and that angry man, who's candidate won the election, is just going to remain angry even if his country gets better for him. I am not going to be on guard about the things that I might say when I am 'out of the blue'. I'm not going out of my way to pick a fight, but I'm not going sit back and worry that saying anything about a government policy I do not agree with is going make the man standing next to me to become violent. That's what people  in Nazi Germany had to do. That's what some people in not so 'free' countries have to do. That is not something as a citizen protected by the First Amendment has to do.

From now on, I'm fighting back, because I am no longer shocked. I am no longer scared. Now, I'm angry. I am angry for letting this little man intimidate me into silence and I am not going to let it happen again. I see your hatefulness and I will not let it silence me.