The Five Minute Activist

If we learned nothing else over the last four or five years, it’s that we still have a lot of work to do to make the world a better place. However, if everyone does their part in making their voices heard, we’ll get the job done a lot faster.

The good news is that you can get it done in five-minute chunks. That’s less time than it takes to drink a tall latte. Try these:

  1. Call or email your elected reps. At the federal level, the Capitol switchboard number is (202) 224-3121. Just follow the prompts to be connected to your senator’s or rep’s office. To email, visit https://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm or https://www.house.gov/representatives and find their cyber-addresses there. For the state officials, go to https://openstates.org/find_your_legislator/.
  2. If you choose to stop buying products or shopping at certain stores due to their support of things detrimental to the common good, don’t stop there. Shoot them an email and let them know why you are choosing to do so. Recently, we dumped our warehouse club due to their support of a certain pillow manufacturer. They needed to know why we were cutting ties with them, and when they decide to cut ties with that vendor, we’ll talk.
  3. Going back to 1…if you call an elected representative’s office and they give you the runaround or treat you rudely, let others know of your experience. There’s always Twitter. One of your local friendly news people might want to know about the incident. I am blessed and lucky to have Lauren Underwood for my rep right now. Before her, however…there was Randy Hultgren, ignorer of emails and purveyor of rude staffers. Like one named Brian who hung up on me. I wasn’t the only one. I heard other stories of the office door being locked and knocks going unanswered while staffers peeked through gaps in the blinds. I regret not sharing my experience with media contacts. Make sure you document time and names.
  4. Find alternatives for entertainment: used book stores, streaming services, good ol’ PBS, independent musicians, so on. So much of what’s portrayed on network TV in the US is poor quality or over the top violent.
  5. Make choices to support the environment. Buy whatever organic products you can afford (I know, pricy, but even a single tomato can help). Eat a few meatless meals a week, or if you can’t do veg food, do some sustainably raised fish or poultry.
  6. Be mindful of small things like water and energy consumption.
  7. Smile. You’re taking action, even in small ways. Be proud. You’re a drop of water in a river, a wave, and you’re doing your part to wash everything clean.

The Work Ahead

February opens on a snowy note here in the soybean field. This last weekend’s storm dropped a bit under seven inches of the white stuff on us. We’re shoveled out and the roads are clear, so we’ll get out this afternoon when the wind chill dissipates a bits.

Until then, we have some things to check off the to-do list. Run the dishwasher; do a couple of five-minute organization blitzes; tweet, call and email Congress Rep. Underwood and Senators Duckworth and Durbin.

The last task is the most vital. I can always use paper plates and have no shame about eating out of pots. Piles of bank statements and magazines have been in their spaces this long and leaving them there a bit longer won’t harm anything. Those detract from the quality of my personal life, but those can be easily solved.

Preserving democracy, however, is another matter. It’s not just me or my cohort wave who would be impacted if the lines don’t get established in bold red strokes. It would mean that my nephew, my niece, their descendants, and generations to come would be in a struggle to survive under authoritarianism all because a large group of the gullible and the racist were pulled into a vortex of conspiracy theories, disinformation, and hate.

What, then, needs to be done to close the black hole?

One thing that would go a long way is reinstating the Fairness Doctrine and update it for the digital age. The Fairness Doctrine went on the books in 1949. It required broadcasters to present issues of public interest from different points of view. In 1987, the FCC repealed it. That lead to monopolizing of media outlets and a lack of diverse viewpoints, making it too easy for news to turn into propaganda. And making it too easy for right wing hate speech to take over the airwaves in some rural areas.

The other thing that needs doing is educating the public on critical thinking skills when it comes to media consumption. Finland (https://edition.cnn.com/interactive/2019/05/europe/finland-fake-news-intl/ ) has a whole school curriculum that was developed in 2015 with the rise of trolls and bots to help students vet information presented on the internet. Could the same be done here for the current K-12 group, and could it be slipped into the adult population via PSAs?

Would it hurt to try? I don’t think so.

These are at the top of my personal list as well as bringing back civics classes so the populace actually understands how government works, and knows how the three branches of government function, and demand that they do so as intended.

And making sure that people get fed.

And housed, and…and…

It’s a long list. We’d better get started.

If you need me, I’ll be over here having my soup out of the pot.

How to Build a Bigger Table

When you have more than you need, build a bigger table, not a higher fence. John Pavlovitz.

I’ve had Fourth of Julys spent huddled under desks with Oakley and Orion that felt more like end of the year celebrations than this season has. Holidays and I don’t get along really well to begin with, so forgive me for sitting this month out except for New Year’s Eve. I look forward to the books being closed on this plate of lutefisk with a colonoscopy prep chaser of a year.

In the personal world, the holiday get together with my family has been postponed. There’s no way Sister and Brother in Law can get down here safely, and they’re both in risk groups. Brother and Sister in Law are in risk groups. Hubby is in a risk group because of his age. Trinkets and tokens of affection will get exchanged somewhere along the line, I’m sure, though, but in person is contraindicated until further notice.

For now, anyway, it’s time to put the focus on what can be done, especially in the wider world. As we’ve seen, there’s a lot that needs doing. As I write, we have 31 days until President Biden and Vice President Harris are inaugurated (I know it’s technically -elects, but they’ve been acting more presidential than some occupants of the West Wing I can name). Even with the incoming administration, the damage done in the last four years and exacerbated by the pandemic this year is not going to be repaired overnight.

Just like the best way to wash a stack of dishes is to grab a plate and start washing, the best way to help with the mess caused by COVID-19 is to pick an issue and take action. For us, making sure people eat is first and foremost. “Appalled” didn’t begin to cover our reactions to the videos of people waiting in lines for hours to get food. Hubby and I donated to https://solvehungertoday.org, the Northern Illinois Food Bank.

In addition, I’ve been spending more time on Twitter retweeting articles on food insecurity to my elected reps and articles detailing what the populace can do to help their neighbors who may be in dire circumstances. For ways to help in your area, please go to https://www.feedingamerica.org.

If you can donate, great. Even a dollar or five can help (they can create eight meals out of every dollar per the food bank). Even an extra can of tuna or jar of peanut butter means an extra sandwich or two. And don’t forget soap, cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer, and masks. Those are not covered by SNAP.

Another way to donate is to buy a gift card and leave it with the cashier. That way if someone comes up a bit short at checkout, the cashier can use it to discreetly help the customer.

Everyone can contact their reps at the state and local levels. Email. Call. The US Capitol switchboard is 202-224-3121. If you have a rep who’s not responsive, support another candidate in 2022.

In the meantime, wash your hands, wear a mask, watch your distance…and here’s to gathering at a larger table next year.

Awakening in the Nuclear Era

 

Image from Today

 

Yesterday morning, I went to yoga. Afterwards, I stopped at Wal-Mart to grab a couple of pairs of new jeans, then went home and had a bowl of clam chowder for lunch. Afterwards, Oakley and I went shopping for his food for the week or so, then we took a ride on the back roads winding through the currently bare farmland under the crystal blue sky. We tried to walk, but there was just enough wind to make the elements uncomfortable. On the way home, Oakley and I made a stop at a drive through for coffee (me) and an ice water (for him).

A gloriously ordinary Saturday.

As we drove around, I bounced back and forth between WCPT (progressive talk) running the highlights of the past week and a couple of music stations. Once home, we tuned into “America’s Test Kitchen” as we usually do on Saturday. I didn’t hear about this false alarm until fairly late in the day.

My stomach lurched in a way it hadn’t since I was in high school and college. I came of age during the Reagan years with the whisper of the siren lurking in the back ground, wondering daily if today would be the day that the final war started. The better part of those years were spent wondering if I was going to live long enough to graduate and why bother with school work if in the end we were going to to be vaporized into oblivion.

At the time, an insidious group called Young Life, one aimed at “saving” teenagers (it’s Campus Crusade for Christ Junior) began infiltrating my high school with messages about the end of days and the Rapture and Aramgeddon.

Between their interpretations of a book I had little use for and living with an alcoholic WWII veteran parent long steeped in USA right or wrong, my anxiety ratcheted up to a level where I was frozen in real time. I stopped doing anything of real substance, mostly spent as much time in my room as I could dreaming of better days, if possible.

Somehow I still pulled off a high enough GPA to get accepted into college and enough financial aid to do so.

Maybe I was supposed to live.

I started planning; I started dreaming of a future for myself. Granted it was the one that young women in the 1980s were supposed to have, but it was a dream, anyway. I wanted a stable home, a family, and all the rest of the things that I was brainwashed into thinking would make me happy.

Things between the US and the then USSR sort of relaxed until my junior year in college.  Events included a passenger airliner shot down for crossing into USSR air space. That was followed by a lot of saber rattling between Washington and Moscow.

Maybe not.

I shut down again. Would I not live to get out of college? What was the point?

In desperation I ended up engaged to an Air Force NCO who ended up being a dumpster fire of a partner.* He didn’t help at all by going into details on what would happen if we did get nuked ; he subscribe to end of the world cult thinking; he played head and heart games on a daily basis including the ever popular “if you loved me you would______” (insert soul destroying action here) while I searched for jobs near the bases he was likely to be transferred to for his last posting.

Suddenly, the tensions relaxed again between Ron and Yuri. Sergeant Dumpster Fire dumped me after demanding that I marry him within 48 hours  or our love was going to die (thanks to the Mystery that it did). Eventually the job, the home, et al  fell into place of their own accord.

For a long time, the threat of nuclear war was a non-issue, but now with the Dotard in Chief playing “mine is bigger than yours” with the not-the-most-stable-meal-on-the-shelf Dear Leader coupled with a vice president who subscribes to the zombie death cult interpretation of Christianity and would love to have himself and his fellows raptured away before the bombs drop, it’s been thrust to the forefront.

Again.

My prayer is that the “football,” the briefcase with the codes, gets kept very far away from the Oval Office until we can get someone more stable and wise in there. My hope is that Congress gets overturned this fall–if we live that long.

In the meantime in addition to letting Senators Duckworth and Durbin know my thoughts while working to get Rep. Hultgren out of office, I will get involved with peace groups as best I can from here in the hinterlands.

As all this shakes out, I will do yoga, enjoy my new jeans, and walk Oakley.

 

*To my family and friends who read this: I lack the words to convey the regret that I feel for the pain and grief I caused you by letting myself get manipulated into this relationship. “I’m sorry” doesn’t begin to cover the regret and remorse. I don’t know if I can ever really forgive myself, either, for the part of my life wasted on this person or for the damage done to other relationships.

Food Insecurity 101

From Quoteaddicts.com.

 

 

(note: If I could go in the quote and put brackets around “childhood,” I would…because no one should go hungry.  Period. End of quotation.)

Let’s start with a definition of food insecurity here.  According to the USDA, 11% of US households along with as many as 20% of children struggle to meet the basic need of nutritious food. 8% of senior citizen households struggle to keep themselves fed as well.

It’s not just people on the ends of the life spectrum. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reported that 1.7 million US veterans made use of SNAP and local food pantries. Thanks to disability and a lack of truly decent jobs on their return, they end up in that hellish place where they have to decide between food, medicine, and bills. (The VA doesn’t do as much as you might think. One of my close friends is in a running battle with them on behalf of her husband, but that’s a long story for another entry.)

However, you can help. Yes, you, Gentle Reader, and I will be beside you. Beyond tossing stats and facts around–important for educating yourself and others–and beyond making contributions–vitally important for providing resources–the most important step you can take is reminding your congress rep about these issues in a phone call or email. If you have the misfortune to live in a district (like WI-01 or IL-14) with a rep who thinks the new tax bill that favors the extremely rich is just fine and dandy or is apathetic to the needs of the constituents, then work on getting them out of office.

No one should make a sacrifice for their country and have to choose between bills and food.

No one at the end of their life should have to, either.

And the parents of the people at the beginning of their lives shouldn’t have to, either.

No one, under no circumstances. Ever.

 

 

 

Inauguration Day Notes

First semi-poltical thought of the day: does anyone else think that the actor who plays Thomas on “Downton Abbey” looks like former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich? Or is it just me?

Two governors ago, I know. I still wonder when the feds will make a dedicated Illinois politicians’ wing at the Terre Haute prison.

Be those as they are….at roughly noon today, Bruce Rauner was sworn in as governor. I watched the ceremony, listened to his speech. I dearly and desperately want to like him, but I have too many doubts. As soon as someone says “job creation,” I get this little icy shiver running through my veins since it comes at the cost of social service programs and the environment.

There’s also a question of a pending lawsuit concerning some nursing homes that he owned. Now, granted that the residents usually don’t get out alive, but the suit alleges dangerously understaffing on a regular basis to save money, leading to deaths from neglect and abuse. He spoke of making sure that the net was in place, but that doesn’t synch up with the image of someone who allegedly rode off to one of his luxury vacation homes on the backs of the most vulnerable.

Yes, we desperately need jobs, and we need a small business friendly climate to provide them. There’s the proposed fracking in southern Illinois. I need to do more research, but it seems to me that jobs coming in at the cost of earthquakes and toxic waste is too high.

What we really need is someone who can make sure that taxes are going where they are supposed to go and not into the sinkhole between O’Hare and Lake Michigan. I hope Gov. Rauner can stand up to House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago area) and remind him that there’s a lot of state beyond the tollways ringing the Windy City.  Some years ago, Hubby was active in a group that tried to get property taxes in our county reduced. One eye opener: much of the revenue goes into the Chicago public school system.

The other: voter apathy. The group dwindled from a couple of dozen active participants to just Hubby and two of the leaders. Hubby, exhausted and burned out, finally walked away.

What else can be expected when only 20% of eligible voters in our county do so? It’s how many of the party holders who give conservatives a bad name ended up in office.

We have four years in front of us. We can’t recall him, but emails and letters to let the elected know what’s on our minds are in order. For every phone call or letter, there are ten people who are in agreement, but can’t or won’t pick up or log on for whatever reason.

I’ll be in touch soon, Gov. Rauner.

The Focus on What One is For

Yes, I know that occasionally, one has to shock the populace to rouse them from complacency. The problem is when the shocks come so frequently that they inspire apathy rather than action. Numb is not good when it comes to speaking out on behalf of the vulnerable such as senior citizens, children, and animals. Posting information to raise awareness is one thing, but graphic images are another.

As an antidote, antitoxin to the horrific pictures of mistreated animals, several friends posted a Facebook game where participants like a status that indicates a desire to break the endless chain of pictures of dead, dying, or abused dogs. If you like the status, you’re assigned a breed, then you post a picture of a dog of that breed and the above status on your timeline. 

We need to be aware of the capabilities of the dark side. But we also need to hold onto hope and have faith that good and decent humans are out there somewhere. 

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go find a picture of a Scottish wolfhound.

 

 

The Courage to Change What I Can’t Accept

T-24:30 and counting.

This level of fatigue and brain fog is unacceptable. So are the mood swings, the sleeplessness, the heavy periods. 

T-24:25 and counting.

I’m not thrilled with the weight gain, either. Part of it my own doing, granted, from stress eating when my mother in law went through her last year on this side, trapped in the revolving door of what passes for health care for the elderly in the US. Part of it stems from attempting to comfort myself after Orion crossed the Rainbow Bridge. A lot of it has to do with this last act in the monthly dance of the hormones.

T-24:17 

So tomorrow, I give something different a shot. Inspired by the quick and positive results that Oakley had with his herbs, I made an appointment at the local acupuncture practice. Many of my friends who live in town have had good results. It is worth a shot. 

T-24:15

I want to stay as far from synthetic hormones and more commonplace medicine as I can. At the time of her death, my mom was on high-estrogen birth control pills. She smoked. She had little relief from them. The heart attack that claimed her life happened when she was 51, just a few months older than I am now. 

That is totally unacceptable. 

I have too much to do right now. I have an e-mag; letters and emails to write concerning the environment for the generations to come; crossposting and reposting to do for animal rescues on Facebook; and a dog to care for. I don’t have time for fatigue, for draining periods, or to slip the veil of tears.  

T-24:05

I’ve done my research, so I have a rough idea of how tomorrow’s appointment will go. Curiosity has overridden fear. What changes will be suggested otherwise, I don’t know. I will let curiosity lead the way.

T-24:00