Shooting of Scalise is Deplorable, But We Didn’t Start The Fire!

The shooting on Wednesday at the Congressional baseball practice in Virginia was a deplorable act that should be condemned by everyone. I hope that Representative Scalise and everyone else who was wounded will fully recover from this heinous act.

However, while initially calling for unity following the shooting, some Republicans have tried to place the blame for this act of violence, committed by a Bernie Sanders supporter, on the Democratic resistance to Trump and the GOP agenda. In an article on BusinessInsider.com, GOP Congressman Chris Collins of New York said Democratic political opposition to President Donald Trump had ‘”gone too far.”

“I can only hope that the Democrats do tone down the rhetoric,” Collins said. “The rhetoric has been outrageous: The finger-pointing, the tone, the angst and the anger directed at Donald Trump, his supporters, really then, some people react to things like that, people get angry as well, and you fuel the fires.” Collins also said he would carry a gun in public in the incident’s aftermath.

Well, Congressman Collins, to your arrogant and false accusation, I must simply reply, “BULLSHIT!” And, by invoking the title of a well-known Billy Joel song, We Didn’t Start the Fire! Apparently the shooting of a white fellow Republican and House colleague has affected your perception and your memory. Please allow me to respond with the thing Trump and the GOP hate most — the truth!

While America unfortunately has a long history of political violence as pointed out in a NewRepublic.com article, a story on Newsweek.com put the onus for our current situation right where it belongs — The new era of political thuggery dates to raucous Trump campaign rallies last summer, when the candidate urged supporters to “lock up” his opponent, Hillary Clinton, and promised to pay the legal fees of those who often scuffled with protesters and berated journalists.

The NewRepublic article further reinforced that view. Trump encouraged his supporters to “knock the crap” out of protesters, and even suggested he would pay the legal fees of followers who assaulted his critics.

An ongoing pattern of threats and violence is further documented in the Newsweek.com story. “America’s cold civil war is heating up, with countrywide reports of incidents of political violence. In addition to a congressman-elect “body-slamming” a reporter in Montana and regular clashes between protesters in the streets, two announced Democratic political candidates have now withdrawn their challenges to Republican incumbents, citing death threats.” [It should be noted the congressman-elect who body-slammed the reporter in Montana was Republican Greg Gianforte.]

In addition, Trump and the GOP have embraced many supporters who are are known for threatening violence against Democratic officials. According to a WashingtonPost.com story yesterday, Ted Nugent, who now says he will tone it down, threatened Barack Obama during his first run for the presidency by saying he should “suck my machine gun.” And when President Obama was running for reelection in 2012, the rocker said during the National Rifle Association convention that, “If Barack Obama becomes the president in November, again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year.” The statement attracted the attention of the Secret Service.

And the previously cited Newsweek article also notes that earlier this year, one of Trump’s favorite broadcasters, Alex Jones, threatened on air to “beat” Democratic Representative Adam Schiff and told the California congressman to “fill your hand”—a reference to taking up a pistol. An attorney with expertise in federal law told Newsweek at the time that the threats appeared to break a federal law, U.S. Code Title 18, Section 115, which makes it illegal to threaten to assault a U.S. official and provides a penalty of up to six years in prison. Jones was never charged.

And these are a just a few instances of the violent rhetoric and threats that have come from Trump supporters and those who align with the far right wing of the GOP. No, Representative Collins, trying to blame Democrats for the political violence is the ultimate in hypocrisy. The GOP and especially the tea-publicans have created this environment of extremist threats to energize your constituencies and get out the vote. And now you’re reaping the unpleasant benefits.

These extremist tactics and positions have left a wide swath of America feeling threatened with losing their health care, their social security and their rights through discriminatory policies in voting, employment and more, so you can give more tax breaks to the rich, let religious extremists walk all over the  rights of everyone else, and strip away environmental and financial regulations so corporations can grow rich by poisoning the environment and cheating consumers. So also know, Representative Collins, that while we condemn Wednesday’s shooting and other acts of violence, we will not go quietly into the night and let your party run roughshod over our rights. We will protest, we will rally, and we will march PEACEFULLY!

The Divine Miss Bri

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Hartford Unity & Pride Rally: It’s About Being Able To Be Who We Are

Yours truly, The Divine Miss Bri up close and personal at the Unity and Pride Rally in Hartford

On Sunday, June 11, a diverse group of people representing the LGBTQ community and our supporters gathered on the back steps of the state capitol building in Hartford to stand in solidarity with the main rally in Washington, D.C. Sponsored by Hartford Capital City Pride and CLARO (Connecticut Latinas/os Achieving Rights and Opportunities), this rally provided an opportunity to celebrate who we are and find the inspiration to keep up the fight until all of us everywhere have the right to be who we are.

Standing out there in 90 degree heat Sunday

My sign for the rally!

afternoon, we were both one and many. We recognized how fortunate we are to live in Connecticut, where the LGBTQ community enjoys rights and protections that are rare in other states. But we also know that we have to stay vigilant and engaged to assure that no one can take those rights away. We also have an obligation to fight for the rights of those outside of our state, because it’s vital that we all stand together.

Pastor Louis Mitchell, trans man and activist, speaking at the rally.

Sometimes we tend to lose sight of the fact that the rights we enjoy today did not come easy. They did not come without pain, without sacrifice. From the Stonewall Riots  that occurred 48 years ago this month through the horrors of AIDS to today, pioneers stood up and defied the efforts of so-called “normal” society to make us go away. Now it is up to those of us who have benefited from their sacrifices to move forward to continue the momentum.

I confess that this rally shook me out of my comfort zone

Connecticut Lt. Gov. Nancy S. Wyman speaking at the rally

and made me realize what we need to be fighting for. Unlike many members of the trans community, I have had it very easy. I am surrounded by mostly “straight” friends who accept me as me without reservation. It is a level of caring and acceptance that I wish others could experience. And, therein lies the crux of the message from today. It is up to those of us here and now to keep pushing the boundaries so that others can share what we have — love, acceptance and the freedom to be who we are.

Some of the crowd in attendance at the rally

Yes, we are different … and we’re damned proud of it! We’re all different races, genders, religions, sexual orientations. Hell, we’re a freakin’ rainbow of humanity! However, there is one thing we share with other groups, from women to seniors to the poor, and that’s the fight for equality of treatment, and equality of opportunity. Some fights are too big to stand alone when we can be stronger together.

I am still adjusting to the role of an activist, though I’ve really been pretty open

One of our emcees for the rally! Love that hat!

about being a trans woman, because I want people who’ve never met a trans person to understand that we’re not a threat — we don’t sprinkle stuff in their drinks to make them want to change genders, we don’t molest children (or anyone else) and we just want the right to be who we are.

It was inspiring to be a part of today’s rally which featured so many members of the LGBTQ community, including Pastor Louis Mitchell, a trans man I had met before on several occasions and Hartford Commission on LGBT Issues member Kamora Herrington, as well as our Lt. Governor and the Mayor of Hartford.

Another crowd shot from the rally.

For all my brothers and sisters in the community as well as those who support us, I wish you Peace, Love and Strength to carry on the fight in Unity and Pride!

The Divine Miss Bri

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Our Country Is Being Stolen: It’s Time To Take Back The Real America

There comes a time in every person’s life when they look around and start to wonder what the hell is going on? Well, for those of us brought up to believe in the promise of America and what it could be, we have reached that point as Trump and conservative Republicans are hard at work trying to steer us into becoming something far more sinister and repulsive.

Today’s House vote that rushed through an even worse version of the AHCA, now Trumpcare 2.0, is symptomatic of what has become a persistent march toward an America that is defined by equality only for the wealthy, white males and the religious right. It is extreme capitalism, nationalism, racism and religious extremism all rolled up into one unholy movement that rejects our basic rights as being un-American. They believe America must be purified under the auspices of far right conservatism. All we need is a swastika across the Stars and Stripes or just adopt the Confederate battle flag, and call ourselves Amerika!

Again, I point to the latest iteration of the ACHA, or a I call it, the Anti-Health Care Act. Without CBO estimates, because it was rushed through without complete details, there’s no way to know for sure just how many millions of Americans will lose coverage or go bankrupt because lifetime caps may be reinstated. What we do know is that the wealthy will get big tax breaks and older Americas, poorer Americans and Americans with pre-existing conditions will get royally screwed. Plus, Congress exempted itself from being covered by the new act’s provisions. That smacks of the way the pigs changed the rules in Orwell’s Animal Farm from “All animals are created equal” to “All animals are created equal, but some are created more equal than others.”

Add in the steady stream of bills and executive orders that favor corporations and businesses over workers and consumers, from overtime rules changes to loss of internet privacy to ripping up regulations to protect the environment, everyday Americans keep losing ground and our rights. And, just yesterday, activist Desiree Fairooz was convicted in U.S. Court for apparently laughing at a controversial (and it was laughable) remark made by a Republican panelist during Jeff Sessions’ hearing on his nomination for Attorney General.  (Read Story Here.)

Today, Trump also signed an executive order giving churches and religious  institutions more leeway to endorse political candidates without losing their tax exempt status. It stopped short of allowing what the fundamentalists really wanted — the ability to discriminate against LGBTQ citizens without fear of sanctions. It’s a bad step on the slippery slope toward ignoring our long-standing principle of “separation of church and state.”

Frankly, I’ve had enough of this whole ugly state of affairs. Lord knows America has its share of problems, but the key to solving them is to move forward as a more egalitarian society that works for the collective good while respecting individual liberties. Certainly free enterprise is a key component, but it has to have boundaries because “greed is not good!” The wealthy should pay their fair share because they benefit the most from the system. And the system should help lift up those who need help.

Unlike conservative perceptions, the poor and the sick are generally not responsible for their situations, nobody’s race or religion makes them eminently superior, and all of us are entitled to the same rights of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Finally, the most egregious sin committed by the GOP has been their not-so-subtle attempts to limit voting rights in order to create and maintain their electoral advantages. That’s an attack on our very foundation of democracy. It is time NOW for all true Americans to stand our ground and say NO MORE, NOT HERE!

Petition! March! Protest! Rally! Blog! Tweet! Contribute to candidates if you can! Get active in local politics! Run for office! Call your representatives! Make your voice heard until it deafens those who would trample our rights and makes them quake in fear of what comes next! We should not fear our government! Our government should fear us!

LET’S TAKE OUR AMERICA BACK!

The Divine Miss Bri

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Transgender Day of Visibility: This Is Everyone’s Fight

March 31, 2017 is the International Transgender Day of Visibility!

This is a day when those of us who are transgendered (and those who support us) stand up to be counted and let those who can’t come out for fear of rejection and violence know that we support them. But more than that, we stand for the rights of all who live under threat because of who they are. Trans rights are about everyone’s rights and equality for all!

We are engaged in a fight for survival, folks, against the forces of darkness who masquerade as Christians while doing the work of the devil. They perpetuate a false narrative, born of ignorance, that being transgendered is an affront to their religion and that our very existence infringes on their religious freedom. Smugly secure in that ignorance, they paint us as sexual molesters and pedophiles when, in fact, they are far more likely to be one of these perverts than we are.

In a further example of hypocrisy, they accuse us of being the oppressors in wanting to force our views on them. Bulls–t!!! No one is forcing them to transition. No one is forcing them to deny their faith. Yet, they seem to think that’s it’s fine to make us live in accordance with their beliefs or be marginalized. AND THAT’S JUST WRONG!!! But they have amassed considerable right-wing support, which could lead to the passage of the misnamed First Amendment Defense Act that would codify into law anti-LGBTQ discrimination based on religious objections.

Passage of the First Amendment Defense Act would just be the first step in the far right’s campaign to marginalize religious and ethnic minorities. The more power they gain, the more they want. It won’t just stop with attacking the LGBTQ community, so our fight is everyone’s fight.

Our constitution starts with term “We the people …” and makes no distinction as to excluding any particular types or groups of people. The same applies to the Pledge of Allegiance term ” …with liberty and justice for all.” There’s no disclaimer attached excluding any particular groups. Of course, in practice, that has not always been the case, but we continue to make strides in realizing the truth of these terms. That’s progress. And we need to stand firm against any and every attempt to roll back the rights that been gained.

Jesus told us to “love thy neighbor.” He also told us to “render unto Caesar (i.e., the government) that which is Caesar’s.” That means, if the law says that you can’t discriminate against someone else because of religion (theirs or yours), gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, etc., then you don’t have a religious ground to stand on in refusing to comply. No one is requiring you to change your gender identity, sexual orientation or anything else. You’re just expected to publicly respect the rights of others. It’s a simple, universal concept.

Join our fight now, because if we don’t stand together, we’ll all fall one by one!

The Divine Miss Bri

 

 

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Exercising Our Rights: This Is What Democracy Looks Like

“Use it or lose it!”

We use that line to talk about a number of things, but it is most appropriate when referring to our rights in a democracy. While it’s most frequently applied to voting, which is critically important, it also applies to demonstrations, marches, holding your elected representatives accountable and other forms of active, participatory democracy.

Although I grew up in the era of the Civil Rights protests and the Vietnam War protests, I was mostly too young to participate, plus I lived in a conservative area where protests of any kind were pretty much non-existent. However, at the still young age of 62 (survival tip: it’s safer to agree with me here than to argue), I was inspired by the Women’s Marches right after the inauguration. Since then, as regular readers of this blog know, I have joined the ranks of activists locally to take action in trying to defend the rights of all against the imminent threats from Trump and the far right since the election.

Today, I took another step by participating in my first protest march, an Equality March in Hartford, CT. It may not have been a huge affair compared to the Women’s Marches, but it was important for those of us who took part. Among the salient points that I took from today’s event:

First, we were a very diverse group of people supporting equality and rights over a broad spectrum of groups: Trans Rights, LGBTQ Rights, Civil Rights, Animal Rights, Workers’ Rights, Immigrant Rights and more. Within this diversity, there was a definite sense of camaraderie and fellowship because we recognize that we are all in this together. There can be no equality until we  achieve equality for all! So, we marched and chanted together for each other.

Second, we were all on the same page about making it a peaceful march. We can all be passionate without being violent about it. And there was no reason for even a cross word. Several people waved and gave us a Thumbs Up in support. We also had a police escort to help us get across intersections as a group, so we weren’t worried about anyone bothering us.

Third, the Hartford P.D. officers were very nice and respectful of us and we were respectful of them. Every situation is different, but mutual respect goes a long way in  minimizing “incidents.”  Can’t always guarantee it on either side, but it helps to try at every opportunity.

Fourth, while rarely will a single action / march / protest result in change by itself, the effects are cumulative so we need to keep it up. The only way to get the other side to understand that we are serious is to outlast them. This is not a sprint, but rather a marathon. And the race has just begun. However, we all have to pace ourselves. When we were talking amongst ourselves before the march started, we all realized there are so many events going on that it’s hard to keep track of them all. That’s good, because there’s always something going on that you can be a part of somewhere. We all need to do what we can, while still taking care of things like work, family and life.

For those of you in CT:

Saturday April 1, from 2:30 – 4 PM, the CT Rally to Support Trans Youth will take place on the steps of the CT Supreme Court building (231 Capitol Ave. Hartford) For more details, visit www.GLSEN.org .

Tuesday April 4th there will be a Teach-In: The Immorality of Inequality starting at 6 PM at the Shiloh Baptist Church (350 Albany Ave., Hartford). For more details visit www.FightFor15.org

There’s so much still to be done, so the keep the faith and stay active, my friends.

And remember to chant: We need a leader, not a creepy tweeter!

Victory will be ours!!!

Equality Through Peace and Unity

The Divine Miss Bri

 

 

 

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