Stars and Stripes

The 4th of July is Wednesday and I’ve heard people saying that they don’t feel very patriotic this year.  I pondered this, as the thought of enjoying a fireworks display or preparing a festive summer picnic doesn’t seem like an appropriate celebration of America’s birthday when there are children in cages.

mexican child in cage fireworks

Then I thought, I’m not letting conservatives annex the holiday with their nationalistic “America First” and then use it to shame the rest of us because we don’t have a flag in our yard.

I put my red, white, and blue bunting on the back deck railing and put out a patriotic-themed garden flag. My front flower bed is decked with a stars and stripes pinwheel spinning merrily in the wind.

As I placed these in our yard, I thought of my colonial ancestors who struggled for American independence. I thought of the many nationalities that melded together on my family tree to produce me. That diverse ancestry is something I take pride in.

I need a flag with the message below on it. Then no one will mistake my patriotic display for support of the dictator-wannabe who is trying to dismantle our system of checks and balances and undermine the Constitution.

I could place it below the row of flag pennants fluttering from the porch railing.

My heart is heavy for the state of our country and for the racism that has bubbled to the surface. Perhaps it is good to know how we really stand and who we can rely on to march shoulder-to-shoulder with us for justice and equality for all.

 

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Swans on Lake Eola

While attending the 2017 and 2018 Women’s rallies in Orlando, I admired the swans and the swan boats on Lake Eola. The events inspired me to form a women’s action network in our senior community. The swans inspired me to name the group, SWANS (Solivita Women’s Action Network).

Then at the 2018 March for Our Lives rally for gun safety, I took these photos. A bus was hired by a school safety/anti-assault rifle group that one of our SWANS started. That made it possible for 56 people from Solivita to attend the rally and march.

Lake Eola and the rainbow amphitheater (photo by Virginia Allain)
Lake Eola. Note the rainbow amphitheater that was painted after the Pulse Nightclub shootings. (photo by Virginia Allain)

It was a sunny day in Orlando and as you see above, people were enjoying the park, taking photos, and soaking up the sunshine. At the same time, thousands of people gathered at the other end of the park to hear speakers talk about school safety and placing controls on assault rifles. It was just a short time after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on February 13, 2018.

swans at lake eola, Orlando photo by Virginia Allain
Swans and fountain at Lake Eola, Orlando (photo by Virginia Allain)
Swans at Lake Eola, Orlando (photo by Virginia Allain))
Swans at Lake Eola, Orlando with the city skyline in the background. (photo by Virginia Allain)

The swans were lovely, there were palm trees, and the sun was shining. For contrast, I hope the next picture shocks you. I hope this earnest student and her creative sign make you think about what steps are needed to provide more gun safety and prevent future mass shootings, not just in Florida schools, but all across our country in public places like concerts and nightclubs and other places that people gather.

You can read more about that day and see my rally photos here.

march for our lives gun safety
A sign that cries out for change. Orlando rally 2018 – March for Our Lives. (photo by Virginia Allain)

Thanksgiving and Politics – Difficult Decisions

It’s hard to tamp down the overheated rhetoric of this ever-so-divisive election. Suddenly, the holidays are upon us and we aren’t even sure if we can bear to spend a whole day with certain family members. I see some online friends struggling with this. Here are some of the concerns and some solutions they’re going to try.

thanksgiving-meme-aliens
Online meme about Native Americans and undocumented immigrants.

M.L. has a great idea for Thanksgiving: “A tasty protest. If you feel obligated to have Trump supporting family members over for Thanksgiving. Do what I’m going to: have a Global Thanksgiving. No turkey here, just delicious food from all the countries and ethnicities that make up my community and my circle of friends.”

Another friend said, “This is great because you can feel good about it either way: if they like it, you’ve taught them the value of understanding people who are not the same as them. If they don’t like it, you get to smirk into your napkin as they shift uncomfortably in their seats and muddle through the meal.”

S.B.K. added an idea to expand on this, “I suggest that you play a soundtrack of world music while everyone is eating. Putumayo World Music puts out some fabulous albums.”

Someone suggested posting a sign at the door, “Politics not spoken here.”

B.H. had this perspective, “We have two options for dealing with Trump supporters in our family during the holidays:

A) Have the difficult conversations.

Don’t make it easy. Don’t fear making them uncomfortable. Part of the reason Trump was elected was because many white people, myself included, have not been having the difficult conversations with other white people. The old mantra of not bringing up politics or religion is dead. Bring it up. Make them squirm. Look up resources for having productive difficult conversations and practice as a family what you will say. If you’re thinking “I don’t want to ruin Thanksgiving” think about the LGBTQ youth who have been kicked out of their homes and might be without shelter in Trump’s America. Think about the undocumented people currently in detention centers. We need to sacrifice our own comfort to make the world a better place for them.

B) Don’t go/Don’t welcome.

We didn’t uninvite my in-laws to Thanksgiving, but we told them that we were deeply unhappy with them and didn’t really want to break bread with Trump supporters right now, so they uninvited themselves. These people voted for Trump because the bad stuff doesn’t affect them. Make them recognize actions have consequences. Make it affect them. A vote for Trump was a hateful act. The price should be your company and affection.

I recognize if you’re married to a Trump supporter these suggestions might not be possible, but I hope they are useful for confronting parents/siblings/cousins etc. Strength to you all as we navigate a difficult time together.”

V.B. is bypassing Thanksgiving with relatives, “I hope to go to the soup kitchen and serve. I want to give this year. I have a lot and more than enough to be thankful.”

A.L.B. has used these instructions in the past and it certainly seems appropriate for this election year Thanksgiving. “I actually post the ‘annual house rules’ when I invite everyone, since I do have friends of all types. It includes a ‘rule’ as follows: 3- My friends are diverse. They come in all colors, sizes, ages, ethnic groups, religious beliefs, political affiliations, orientations and with all kinds of hobbies/interests/passions. Negative energy or negative/inflammatory conversations of any kind are forbidden. I will toss out offenders. It’s my party, my favorite holiday and my house. Deal with it.

A lot of people are dreading Thanksgiving next week. If you find yourself with your stomach in knots,  then perhaps you need a new version of the holiday and not the same old family gathering.

Don’t Take Bernie’s Voters for Granted

One of the reasons that this election has me on tenterhooks is not knowing how the vote will split among the 4 candidates. The media focuses mainly on the two traditional parties, Democratic and Republican. I worry that a significant portion of the voters are disillusioned enough to vote 3rd party.

How the Libertarian and the Green Party votes play out is a scary part of the equation. The mainstream media seems to look at the two major candidates and assume that when it comes to the crunch the errant voters will return to voting Republican or Democratic.

I think media has underestimated the disillusionment of Bernie’s voters with the Democratic Party. This is not something that Bernie fostered, but it exists. Hillary Clinton hasn’t made much effort to woo them back into the flock.

bernie-voters-screenshot

Formerly, the Berners in the Facebook groups cheered each other on in making phone calls and donating to Bernie’s campaign. They flocked to his rallies. They shared stories of converting family and friends to Bernie and took pride in how long they stood in line to vote in the primary.

Now, the tone is rancorous with comments like this: “You green party/libertarian f—-rs just need to stop. There is NO WAY in hell Johnson or Stein will win. All you will do is make yourself feel warm and fuzzy at the polls, but not change anything. COME BACK TO REALITY!! Pick one, Trump or Clinton!!!”

Such interactions on Facebook and other social media aren’t creating any unified voting blocks. Trolls haunt the groups sowing doubts and being contentious. Bernie’s followers feel abandoned and most remain dubious about Bernie Sanders’ endorsement of Hillary and uncertain about what they should do.

14-bernie-believers-bernie-sanders-fb-screenshot

I’ve shared these screenshots and comments so you can see for yourself that much of this election is up-in-the-air. Don’t take Hillary’s lead in the polls for granted. There is much work to be done for anyone to win on November 8th.

I’m scared.

Hate or Love My Facebook Posts?

I use Facebook to network with fellow writers, to keep up with family news, and to follow topics that interest me like genealogy and the Civil War. Increasingly, I’ve used Facebook to keep up with political factions and to express my political views. In case you aren’t a friend of mine on Facebook, I’m a feminist and a progressive liberal.

I know that not all my friends and family share my views of the world or even if they do, they might not want to see it day after day. Facebook has a solution for that. You can adjust the settings so the person is still your friend, but so their posts do not show up on your news feed. If you hate my politics and still like me, then I recommend that you do that.

Today I approved a new friend, even though I didn’t recognize the person. They were posting in a group from my hometown on a post where I’d put a photo of my brother. Assuming they were a friend of his or possibly an old high school acquaintance of mine, I said OK to the friend request.

Shortly after that, they posted this on my timeline:

“Words mean things people…STOP hating with them. Sticks and stones…that’s a lie from the pit of hell. Thank u JESUS Christ for dieing for MY sins. 💕❤👣✌❤💖”

What? You asked to be my friend and within minutes you are telling me you don’t like my words and preaching at me? That’s pretty pushy. Maybe they befriend lots of people just so they can spread their message across Facebook.

I guess that’s what the unfriend button is for.

And one more point here, I’ll take you a lot more seriously if you are reasonably literate. “Thank u JESUS Christ for dieing for MY sins.” Please, don’t use those texting abbreviations, write in all-capitals, and misspell simple words like “dying.”