Put A Little Love In Your Heart This Easter

New beginnings. Re-birth. Spring. Hope. And, most importantly, love. Today, we celebrate another Easter. In the Christian faith, it is the promise of eternal life as Jesus rose from the dead. But what is the real message that we take away from this holiday?

While I have preached in a church before, this is not a sermon. It is simply an opportunity to share a wish for today. As we celebrate the Resurrection, there is a simple message in this act — love. God loved the world so he sacrificed his only son for us. Jesus loved us so much that he died for our sins so we could have a chance at salvation.

Jesus did not lead a massive army of holy warriors to strike down sinners. Jesus did not set himself apart from those others deemed unworthy and chastise them for being poor. Jesus told us to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” But why did he say that is the second most important commandment after “love thy God with all thy heart?” I believe that it is the crucial test of our beliefs and one too many self-proclaimed Christians fail. That’s because it is much easier to hate someone than it is to love them as they are. Very similar to the differences between the light and dark sides of the Force in Star Wars, if you prefer a more contemporary analogy.

In truth, this message transcends denominations, regions, nationalities, races, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, social status, financial means and political affiliations. Hate is easy … and dangerous. Love is hard, but brings with it hope and peace.

So today, I’ll leave you with a wish embodied in this song from my teenage years by Jackie DeShannon, Put A Little Love In Your Heart.

Happy Easter!

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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This Is War: The Fight To Save Our America Is Just Beginning

It has been just a little over 8 weeks since Herr Donald took office as Liar-in-Chief and proceeded to continually prove his unfitness to occupy our nation’s highest office. Not because he is inept (I wish that was simply the case), but because he is a devious con artist who engages in trickery and deceit to keep everyone distracted while he and the Republicans in Congress dedicate themselves to stripping away our rights and protections in order to give more power and money to a ruling class of wealthy individuals and corporations.

Call it Libertarian. Call it Conservative. Call it whatever you choose, but it is a dire threat to our progressive values and our freedoms as individuals. It replaces government protections with licenses for the wealthy, corporations and religious extremists to bully and discriminate against anyone (especially immigrants, LGBTQ, seniors, poor and low income Americans), pollute our environment, mistreat workers, invade our privacy and more. Even worse, they are also working hard to leave us with no recourse through the court system to stop these abuses.

Now, it is true that we “supposedly” live under a democratic form of government in which citizens vote and governing is done by majority rule. It has become quite apparent, however, that our system has been “corrupted” by the Citizens United court decision, which essentially allows elections (and thus politicians) to be bought with unlimited campaign contributions, and Russian intervention in our political process, especially since it appears that Trump benefited from that intervention. This calls into question the actual validity of the election results and, consequently, the validity of the current government.

With his initial budget proposal, Donald the Destroyer, has take a slash and burn approach to the “liberal enemies” of the far right and corporate rule — such as those notoriously slacking seniors who are served by Meals on Wheels, those future protesters and criminals who are served by free school meals and other beneficial programs, those lewd anarchists in theater, music and painting who benefit from support of the arts, and those elitist revolutionaries served by public broadcasting. At the same time, he is proposing a massive investment in our military, but why? What are they protecting? An underpaid, overworked and over-taxed population of drones who have no healthcare, no rights to privacy, no safety nets and no protection from corporate abuses. Hmmm, maybe that’s really why Trump wants his wall — to keep us from escaping!

Well, enough is enough! The longer this goes, the harder it’s going to be to stop it. And stop it, we must. Any way we can! Many of us have already begun to fight back, but this is going be a  long war. Yes, I did say war, because it is nothing less than a war against tyranny, against ignorance, against prejudice and against the rule of money. It will require many battles and many sacrifices. Freedom does not come cheap. For now, we have a number of peaceful means at our disposal that we must use to the max, including mass public displays of protest, contributions to organizations that are battling for us, access to our representatives at all levels and the ability to organize in groups to stay focused and active in the fight. We must also get involved in local politics to build the kind of progressive government we want and need.

However, we need to recognize this may not be enough. If that time comes, we need to be ready to “just say no!” No, we will not comply! No, we will not surrender! No, we will not disperse quietly! No, we will not accept this anymore! How far do we go with this civil disobedience? As far as necessary! We simply cannot compromise our values, because they define who we are. We cannot acquiesce to their surrender.

We are powerful when we are united in righteous indignation. A government that does not fear the people has no checks on its power. Let them tremble!

The Divine Miss Bri

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Lies, Damn Lies and Trump’s Address To Congress

Calling out Trump for not just stretching the truth, but ripping it up and spitting on it has become rote because he does it all the time. As Yogi Berra used to say, “It’s like déjà vu all over again!” And while Yogi’s lines were alway humorous, this situation is quite disturbing.

Sadly, Americans accept a lack of integrity on the part of politicians as a fait accompli — it’s just the way things are. I used to say the same thing, but not anymore. As I’ve said before, it’s time we demanded a much higher standard of truthfulness and accountability from those who seek and hold office at any level in this country.

Unfortunately, politicians tell us what we want to hear to get our votes regardless of whether what we want to hear is actually the truth. This goes back a long, long way, so we can’t necessarily blame today’s politicians for starting it, but we can  certainly demand that they stop it here and now. These falsehoods that they’ve perpetuated are what continues to drive us farther apart on so many issues.

For example (and you should’ve been expecting it), let’s take Donald Trump’s speech to Congress last night. I will give him credit for improving his presentation by leaps and bounds in terms of style. On the other hand, as I pointed out in my last post, his facts were essentially alternative facts or, in plain English, untruths.

Just to clarify, I used two different sources that fact checked his speech and both reached the same conclusion based on real facts. Trump must love Burger King because he was peddling some “whoppers” last night.

I will focus on just a few here, but I encourage you to check the links below to read the full stories yourself on WashintongPost.com and MSN.com. It definitely changes the perspective on just how things really are.

To quote from the intro to the WashingtonPost.com article: “An address to Congress is such an important speech that presidents generally are careful not to stretch the truth. The ’16 words’ in George W. Bush’s 2003 State of the Union address that falsely claimed Iraq’s Saddam Hussein sought uranium from Africa led to significant turmoil in the administration, including the criminal conviction of a top aide.

“President Trump’s maiden address to Congress was notable because it was filled with numerous inaccuracies. In fact, many of the president’s false claims are old favorites that he trots out on a regular, almost daily basis.”

For example, Trump spoke about draining the swamp and his order banning executive branch officials from lobbying for 5 years after leaving. However, it’s not what it seems. The ban only applies to an official lobbying the department/agency he/she actually worked for. It doesn’t stop them from becoming  a lobbyist and doesn’t apply to legislative branch officials. The truth is a whole lot less impressive than his alternate facts.

In another example of vastly overstating his early accomplishments, “Trump again takes credit for business decisions made before his election.”

Ford’s decision to expand a plant in Michigan and not build a plant in Mexico was driven by sales results and long-term business goals, while Fiat Chrysler’s plans to invest $1 billion in a factory in Michigan were put into place over a year ago. Trump had no influence on these decisions to name a few, yet claimed credit for them. That’s not an encouraging sign.

And, to quote from the MSN.com article, Trump “cherry-picked the findings of a recent report, saying it found immigration costs U.S. taxpayers ‘billions of dollars a year.’ The report said immigration ‘has an overall positive impact on long-run economic growth.’

“Trump said ’94 million Americans are out of the labor force,’ a figure that includes the retired, college students and stay-at-home parents. The vast majority — 88.5 million — said they didn’t want a job.

“Trump said he would ‘promote clean air and clean water,’ a vague claim that came hours after he had signed an executive order to roll back a 2015 ‘Clean Water Rule.'”

I again encourage you read the full analysis in both articles so you can see for yourself why we should all be concerned. It’s not being fair to the American people to make policy decisions based on false facts. That helps no one but these in power who have a vested interest in perpetuating the big lies.

Call and write your representatives in the House and Senate as well as the media to demand real transparency and accountability from all levels of government. NO MORE LIES!

Let the R.A.I.N. come down and let the truth shine through!

The Divine Miss Bri

 

 

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Money Talks: How To Hit Trump And The GOP Where It Hurts By Boycotting Their Sponsors

Every day brings a new threat to our rights and our future as well as frightening new insights into just how dysfunctional and dangerous the political situation in Washington has become. From the White House to Congress, the Trump administration and the GOP appear to be in a mad scramble to see which one can do the most damage.

Just as we thought the debacle of confirming the appointment of a totally unqualified Betsy DeVos to be Secretary of Education might be as low as the Senate GOP could go, self-appointed Senate dictator Mitch McConnell and his band of knuckle-dragging neanderthals slithered to new depths with their efforts to silence Senator Elizabeth Warren, which is another mistake that will come back to haunt them. (Read story here.)

Then, Senate Republicans confirmed Jeff Sessions, a man who was denied a federal judgeship because of past racial concerns, to be our top law enforcement officer with a major responsibility for safe-guarding civil rights. That’s beyond bizarre.

And it wouldn’t be complete without Kellyanne Conway, queen of alternative facts and fake massacres, who violated ethics laws and endorsed  Ivanka Trumps’ clothing line on national television.

I could go on and on, which is the point I want to make … we need to put the
brakes on this runaway tyranny and absurdity before America gets crushed in a massive train wreck. Fortunately, there are ways to start putting a stop to this assault on our rights.

Organize peaceful protests to draw media attention to the issues. Stay in touch by phone and email with your elected representatives at all levels to let them know that you want them to stand up against Trump and the conservatives efforts to eliminate the ACA, ban immigrants/refugees and roll back environmental protections, financial safeguards, civil rights enforcement and LGBTQ gains. Get involved in local Democratic or independent party politics and even run for office yourself. And, just as importantly, use your wallet to hit the other side where it hurts.

There’s an old saying about the Golden Rule: whoever has the gold makes the rules. That’s meant that the big-money Republican donors have been getting their way with Trump and the GOP. However, we can change that by fighting fire with fire. There’s a web site called Adstrike that monitors which companies have ad placements on alt-right hate speech/fake news sites like Breitbart, American Lookout and Drudge Report so you can contact the companies and request they pull their advertising.

We can also choose not to patronize brands / stores that support right-wing politicians and do not reflect our values of tolerance, inclusion and equal rights. I personally refuse to buy Angel Soft, Brawny or Vanity Fair paper products because they’re owned by the Koch Brothers. I also avoid Domino’s Pizza, Chick-fil-A and Hobby Lobby because of their values and/or their political contributions. You can find more by clicking on the following links.

http://samuel-warde.com/2014/12/10-right-wing-companies-to-boycott/

https://grabyourwallet.org

http://mashable.com/2016/11/15/boycott-donald-trump-business/#kpZ6XMfG1kqg

One additional resource to add to your arsenal is Resistance Manual, a site with
lots of information on issues and policies, plus tools you can use to take action now to bring this runaway train to a halt!

Use every tool to strike back for our freedom before it’s gone!

Let the R.A.I.N. bring a flood of hope!

The Divine Miss Bri

 

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The Radical Truth About Refugees, Immigrants and the American Dream

With all the recent focus on the administration suddenly banning refugees and immigrants from a number of Muslim countries (with some startling exceptions), I set out to learn if these refugees and immigrants represented the threat that Trump and the GOP claim. Well, as my 7th grade history teacher, Mrs. Wilson used to say, “‘Tain’t so!” (I grew up south of the Mason-Dixon line.)

It did not take long after I started my research to
discover the radical truth about refugees, immigrants and the American dream — almost without exception, they come here for the very same reasons our families did — freedom from persecution and the chance to work hard and realize the American dream. All the hysteria and hyperbole from Trump and the conservatives is actually more like the title of a Shakespeare play — Much Ado About Nothing!

Really?! Yes, really. For all the talk about Muslim immigrants being terrorist threats, it was just a scare tactic to get votes and distract you from the real issues, which should make you very angry.  (I’ll be talking about some of those real issues in my next post.) 

According to data compiled by New America, a think tank, “every jihadist who conducted a lethal attack inside the United States since 9/11 was a citizen or legal resident.” (You can read the report yourself here.)

This puts them in the same category with notable homegrown terrorists like Timothy McVeigh and Dylan Roof. McVeigh, an anti-government fanatic, was responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 that killed 168 people and wounded 648 — the deadliest terror attack in America before 9/11. In 2015, Roof, a white supremacist, gunned down nine African-Americans at the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC.

None of these terrorists would have been stopped by the type of ban instituted by the Trump administration in all its misguided zeal. But that was only one report, right? Not so fast.

Quoting from a report on CNN.com: “According to the CATO Institute, not one person from the seven countries included in the ban has killed anyone in a terror attack on US soil in the last 40 years. This includes refugees, as well.” The article goes on further to say that according to the data reviewed by the CATO Institute, “the chances of an American dying in a terrorist attack committed by a foreigner in the US stands at about one in 3.6 million.” (Read it here.)

To put that in perspective, you have a one in a one million chance of dying in a plane crash or being struck by lightning. The odds are considerably worse for dying in a car accident (one in 6,700). (That’s enough to have you calling in sick and ordering pizza delivery!)  Seriously, the threat from Muslim immigrants and refugees is virtually non-existent. Add to that the fact that there are far fewer Muslims immigrating to America than the hype would lead you to believe.

According to an NBC News report (Read it here,)“Not one predominantly Muslim nation makes the list of top 10 countries of origin for legal immigrants in 2013, according to the most recent census figures compiled by the Migration Policy Institute. 

At #14, Pakistan was the top-ranked Islamic country with 13,251 legal permanent residents — just 1 percent of the total 990,553 immigrants who received Green Cards that year, the figures showed.”

Okay, if they don’t come here to kill us, what do they want? The Center for Immigration Studies says that Muslims make up roughly less than one percent of the U.S. population and they come seeking refuge from persecution, civil strife and war. They come to America for the educational opportunities and the better payoff from that education. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

When you look at the real facts (no alternative facts allowed in my blog), it’s obvious that the administration and the GOP have tried to pull the wool over our eyes. Makes you wonder what else they’re hiding!

Stand up and be counted for those who, like our ancestors, come to share in the dream of America!

Let the R.A.I.N. wash away the lies and help us all grow together!

The Divine Miss Bri

NOTE: While I welcome and encourage your comments, they are moderated prior to appearing, so anything that remotely resembles spam or hate gets trashed. 

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Call to Action — This is Our Duty

Honestly, there are so many absurdities and atrocities going on now that I feel my head may explode trying to process it all. And, the more I take in the more I feel that we are teetering on the precipice of a darkness not seen since the rise of Adolph Hitler and the Nazis. You may scoff and say that can’t happen here, but I would challenge that assumption in the prevailing atmosphere of hate and anger fostered by the current occupant of the White House and his supporters.

I just saw today where Jonathan Scott of Property Brothers on HGTV posted his support of the Women’s Marches on his Facebook page and received numerous hateful responses. Fortunately, most comments were positive, but it’s still alarming that there are so many people who harbor such ill will toward women, minorities, the LGBTQ community, immigrants and refugees!

Another assault has been unleashed against an at-risk population with the Trump administration’s new policies regarding refugees and immigrants, which are pretty draconian. It is an attack on what American can and should stand for in a world of conflict and persecution.

Immigrants and refugees from everywhere, and their descendants, built this country.  If not for them, we wouldn’t even be here! Many arrived at Ellis Island (pictured at right). They all came here and found a home, many having to fight for survival and respect along the way. It wasn’t easy, but they did it because they had a chance!

One has to wonder if Donald Trump, a New York City resident, ever bothered to visit the Statue of Liberty and read the words at her base.

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

Now, I will grant you that we have not always lived up to that promise, especially when the Jewish people were looking to escape Nazi Germany before the Holocaust. And now, Trump marks the observance of the Holocaust by closing America’s borders not just to the many immigrants and refugees, but to hope!

First, he wants to build a wall to keep out the Mexicans. Then he bans Muslims from a number of countries, while saying he will give a preference to Christians! That’s an insult to all Americans who believe in liberty and justice. And it sure as “hell” is not Christian in its approach.

If we allow this to go unchallenged, then the terrorists and the fascists win. And we lose! Is it not enough that we confined Native Americans to reservations, brought Africans over as slaves, confined Japanese Americans in internment camps,  and refused entry to many Jews condemning them to the Holocaust? Enough!!!

Those of us who believe in the promise of America, human rights and the Christian principles of “love thy neighbor” and “do unto to others as you would have them do unto you” have a duty to do whatever we can to right this wrong.

I am reminded of a quote by Martin Niemöller (1892–1984). He was a protestant pastor who opposed Hitler and ended up spending 7 years in a concentration camp.

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

You can read more about Martin Niemöller here.

So take action NOW by contacting the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), your elected representatives, and your church, synagogue or mosque. Also, please share this blog with others!

Be the voice of hope and the welcoming arms of freedom!

Let the R.A.I.N. wash away the hate so love can grow!

The Divine Miss Bri

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