Baltimore Reflection

When I woke up this morning, I found myself trying to sort out the sequence of events that led to the riots last night in Baltimore. How did we get here? Who are we to blame? How do we fix this? In situations like this we often look for a villain. Who is at fault for the justice system shortcomings resulting another headline about a black man murdered by a police officer without justice? Who should be held accountable for the destruction of Baltimore neighborhoods?

Protests that started off as peaceful outcries for answers in the death of Freddie Gray shifted to images of anarchy. What we saw last night was the culmination of frustration, hopelessness and pain not necessarily over the loss of Freddie Grey but over a system of governing that is failing both the community and the justice system.

A few bad apples have spoiled the image of men and women who put their lives on the line to “protect and serve” the community but we cannot point the finger at the police alone. The failure I see in the police system is the systems inability to weed out the individuals who have tarnished the image of a profession that was once held sacred. Systemic corruption and lack of leadership has led to an abuse of power by individuals in authority resulting in mistrust and fear of the people who are trained to protect us from our fears.

On the flip side we also have the community to blame. On a night that should have been marked by candle light vigils in memory of Freddie Gray, members of the community were setting the streets of Baltimore ablaze. Masked as an outcry for justice, a few opportunists took advantage of the atmosphere and robbed the Grey family of the spot needed to bring justice for their lost loved one. As with the police system, a few bad apples have tainted the efforts of community leaders; feeding into all the negative images of black communities. The media perpetuates these negative images as cover stories for likes on social media and newspaper sales but we must keep in mind these are not the images of people seeking justice.

One image from last night I hope people do not forget is the image of leaders and protesters, not looters, standing in between the police and the crowds. These are the individuals the media should focus on as these are the images of what I believe is the solution.

Protester

Our communities, not just the black community, is suffering from a deficit in leadership. Young leaders go to college, equip themselves with the best education and abandon the neighbors they grew up in. Speaking from personal experience, I remember the leaders who helped raise me in the community and reinforce the lessons my parents taught me in the household. Those were the people who symbolically stood in the gap between me and poor choices on occasion. Those individuals were also elected officials who came to visit us in middle and high school during lunch on occasion outside of election season.

One of the solutions to the anarchy last night is more authentic leadership in our communities nationwide. Last night we saw a culmination a perfect storm: the abuse of power by a few bad police officers, youth angry by a system and not wanting to be the next Freddie Gray story mixed with leaders who have the understanding of how to fix a system by standing in the gap ignoring the two elements coming together.

My biggest fear is there are too many perfect storm scenarios waiting to explode across America and like other protests that have gotten out of hand, the events of last night will also be a forgotten thought by the leaders who are equipped to address it. The state of communities like Baltimore across the nation is too fragile to be ignored. We need leaders willing to stand in the gap like the ones we saw last night. Teach the youth how the system works and apply legal action to the justice system so that it works for the community again and honors the police who do their jobs effective. We need less talk by community leaders and more action. While we procrastinate on stepping up to the plate of leadership, more perfect storms of frustration are brewing in Jacksonville, Chicago, Los Angles, Milwaukee, Atlanta, etc. We need to take the steps to move our communities from frustration and anger to hope and action. Until we start teaching the youth that the system will not work unless we citizens educate ourselves, exercise our right to vote and hold elected officials accountable to doing the jobs we elect them to do we will continue seeing more outbursts of riots like we did last night.

Also, let us not forget the message that is being overshadowed by the events of last night. Freddy Grey, may he rest in peace, your life matters as do all black lives and every human life. Let us also be patient while the system works its course, demand transparency during the process, remain vigilant towards any misconduct during the process and take appropriate action to avoid more loss of life through the abuse of power in the justice system.

So a Libertarian, an Independent, a Democrat, and a Republican Walk into a Bar…

I attended a terrific panel presentation last night put on by the Buckhead Young Republicans at Whitehall Tavern in Atlanta.

BYR Vice Chairman Steve Hawrylik and Political Director Greg Williams assembled a stellar panel to discuss the rise of Libertarians within the Young Republican and GOP communities. As the invitation noted, “many YRs identify with Libertarian ideologies and the 2016 Presidential campaign is previewing a larger Libertarian influence.” I have observed in my own son, who is a registered Republican voter in Athens, a struggle to reconcile his desire to support his party with his disagreement on traditional GOP party positions on social issues like marriage equality. I also have Libertarian friends who have interesting positions on issues, and I wanted to learn more about the Libertarian influence on the Republican party.

The questions for the evening were twofold:

  1. What common ground exists among Libertarians, YRs, and the GOP?
  2. Where are the differences and how can those that identify as Libertarian or Libertarian-leaning collaborate with those that view themselves as more traditional Republicans?

The panel included State Rep. Chuck Martin, 2014 Libertarian Senate candidate Amanda Swafford, former Cobb YR Chair Joe Pettit, Georgia State University College Republicans Chair Joash Thomas, and Freedomworks writer Jason Pye.

I will leave it to Scarlet Hawk to post about the specific content of the panel discussion. What I want to note is that, although I’m pretty sure I was the lone Democrat in the room, I was welcomed and even permitted to ask one of the audience questions for the panel. I heard some great discussion, but what was important, and telling, was what I didn’t hear: Intolerance. Strident rebukes. Wingnuttery. Things that the GOP has been taken to task for, both by party insiders and external critics from all sides of the political aisle.

The exceedingly reasonable content of the discussion gives me hope that the young folks in this state are driving some needed change and will move the Republican effort back toward the “big tent” that has historically been the Grand Old Party. It’s terrific to see young people getting excited about politics, regardless of their affiliation.

Well done, Steve and Greg. We need more of this sort of thing.

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From left, Libertarian Amanda Swafford, Independent Lora Hawk, Democrat Dr. Monica Henson, Republican Eric Harrison.

We Hereby Resolve…

Republican district conventions were held across Georgia today. This cycle is the first time I’ve ever participated in this process, and it was a rather eye-opening experience for me.

The various speakers were pretty much what I expected.

The elections were uneventful.

And then there were the resolutions. Oh, the resolutions.

I understand the importance of expressing our shared belief and affirming our common principles, however, today’s brush with the resolution process has left me wary of the entire concept. Nearly every resolution from both the committee and the floor was a neatly wrapped bundle of hate and anger. I get it, there are problems in our government, but don’t y’all realize that no productive conversation ever began with, “this policy is brainwashing inspired by Satan”?

Here’s the thing: every angry issue has a positive solution. It is possible to offer opposition to an issue by presenting a good idea to fix it. For instance, compare these two (completely absurd) mock resolutions:

“WHEREAS comic sans is a worthless typeface.
WHEREAS the use of comic sans makes any document appear to have been created by a toddler with a marker.
WHEREAS it is generally agreed that no serious individual would ever use comic sans.
We hereby resolve to instruct the Georgia General Assembly to consider removing the typeface ‘comic sans’ from all computers designated for use by government officials.”

Or,

“WHEREAS Garamond is an aesthetically pleasing typeface.
WHEREAS the nature of the conservative is to conserve resources.
WHEREAS when printed Garamond uses less ink than other typefaces.
We hereby resolve to instruct the Georgia General Assembly to consider using Garamond as its exclusive typeface for all official government documents.”

So, at the end of the day, both resolutions express the desire to remove the possibility of comic sans being used by the Georgia State Government. One shouts into the wind how horrible everything is, and the other positively supports shared principles.

Now why does this matter? Our resolutions are the very public statements of our shared belief as a party. When the world only sees the first type of resolution, we become the people who are always complaining but have no solutions. If we want to be perceived as people who have some answers (or at least ideas) to solve the problems we’re facing, then we need to use our collective voice to advance those ideas.

comicSans

Happy Tax Day?

photoByPurpleslogI started trying to write about taxation and the role of government. At least five different posts have begun and been scrapped. Each one of these has devolved into, “y’all…people…why?!?!”

First, I tried to understand and process logical arguments for a system of progressive taxation. I was seriously looking at playing devil’s advocate, but when I encountered a serious argument that progressive taxation encouraged people to earn more money because, “more overall income is necessary to reach one’s ultimate income goals if a higher proportion is paid in tax.” Following the rules of logic, this argument actually makes sense in a really depressing, Machiavellian way. It also ignores human nature. As an example, Average Joe gets a raise at work. He runs home to tell the family and celebration ensues. The next payday comes and to Average Joe’s dismay the amount on the check is smaller than the previous one (spoiler alert: the raise pushed him up into the next tax bracket). If the above premise is true, then Average Joe would react with a, “golly gee, I guess I just need to work harder so I can get another raise.” Can we take a poll of how many people believe this would be Average Joe’s reaction?

Next, I approached the argument by attempting to justify the legitimate roles of government. After itemizing those things that rightfully should be governmental functions I realized that it’s only a tiny fraction of the things that our taxes pay for. In lieu of having to argue Every. Single. Government. Agency. I decided to shift to a different topic.

Then I looked at what entities have the power to tax. We pay taxes to the Federal government, the State government, local governments. With the exception of a handful of purely Federal programs (like Social Security, for instance) most of what we pay to the Federal government is sent right back to the states for them to manage the actual department. As an example: muh roads! Roads are built by states. Even the Federal Highway System. The Federal government doesn’t award contracts to repave a highway. However, the Federal government gets my dollar, trims that bad boy down (paying various Federal officials wages and departments operating expenses), and then sends an adorable little fraction of my dollar back to the State of Georgia so that we can maintain and build roads. There are many other redundancies throughout the government services layers, too many for a little blog post discussing tax day.

So where did this all wind up? It seems trite to add another voice to the chorus that we’re paying too much in taxes and there has to be a better way, and yet, those are very applicable choruses. It’s better, perhaps, to take a step back and look at the reasons we aren’t having real discussions about the psychological impact of taxation methodology, or the proper role of government, or duplicative services and departments. Without even broaching the subject of philosophical differences on the role of government, we need some agreement, outside of the rhetoric, that our bureaucracy is not serving the needs of the people. Once we reach that agreement, we have to start modernizing the government services we need, create a more efficient means of delivering them, and eliminate everything else.

Ready for Hillary…Again

Former Secretary of State/United States Senator/FLOTUS/FL of Arkansas/law firm partner/political wife/wronged wife/mother/grandmother Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton, Esq. (who has never done anything notable to speak of, other than marry a powerful man, according to George Will and numerous other right-wingers), is set today to announce her candidacy for the office of President of the United States.

As a fellow Baby Boomer and glass ceiling shatterer who has endured her own share of marital dilemmas and parented my kids successfully to adulthood, not to mention a lifelong Democrat (unlike Hillary, who started out as a Young Republican and a Goldwater Girl in the mid-1960s), I for one am delighted with this development in Hillary’s political career. I supported her candidacy the first time, both in social media and with financial contributions, and I intend to do the same again.

In the interest of full disclosure, Hillary is not the first female candidate for the presidency whose campaign I have supported. I contributed to my fellow North Carolina native Elizabeth Dole’s presidential run in the late 1990s, despite her Republican affiliation. Further full disclosure: I would not have voted for Elizabeth, as my policy is not to vote GOP for presidential races due to their pronounced tendency to balloon the deficit beyond all reason. I am, after all, a conservative, as well as a Democrat. 😉 I would not have voted against Elizabeth had she won the nomination, but I wouldn’t have cast my presidential ballot for her, either. I vote the candidate, not the party, except when it comes to the presidential race. I support candidates with my pocketbook according to my conscience and their degrees of congruence with my own positions.

I digress, but in the interest of explaining why I like Hillary so much and am supporting her candidacy again. We need more smart, accomplished women in charge of things, and not just volunteer organizations, social service agencies, and PTOs, although those are certainly important entities that deserve great leadership. More disclosure: I got much of my own training in leadership as a young woman in the Lawrenceville (GA) Junior Woman’s Club and volunteering for the American Cancer Society.

Despite her famous assertion during Bill’s campaign in 1992 that she was not the type of political wife to stay at home baking cookies and having teas, Hillary “gets it” and appealed tremendously in her first presidential campaign to those of us who share her generation and lived through what it meant to be a young working wife and mother in the early days of the post-feminist era. Disclosure yet again: I stayed at home for five years baking cookies when my kids were little, although I was more inclined to beverages that are to be sipped in a Solo cup than to Earl Grey in Granny Rogers’ china.

Despite Hillary’s strong start, it became clear that the Barack Obama juggernaut would be unstoppable in 2008. Hillary gave it the best fight she could, and her concession was exceedingly graceful. When Obama selected Joe Biden as his running mate rather than Hillary, millions of women who supported her candidacy were outraged, sensing  that Hillary was being excluded not because she is a woman, but because of her husband and the certainty that he would have stolen much of the spotlight in an Obama/Clinton campaign and administration. Although it’s hard to fault Obama for not wanting to deal with the Bill Clinton Phenomenon, it was excruciating to watch Hillary be pushed to the sideline, knowing that she was incredibly well-qualified to be the running mate and if not for who her husband was, she very well might have been.

Hillary shares another quality with many of her Baby Boomer sisters like me, though–a firm belief that things work out they way they are meant to. She advises, like many of us have done, “When you stumble, keep faith. And, when you’re knocked down, get right back up and never listen to anyone who says you can’t or shouldn’t go on.” And that’s exactly what she did, becoming Secretary of State and establishing yet another series of accomplishments that prove she’s qualified to hold the highest office of this land.

With apologies to Mr. Will, I do want to point out that $21 million in funding for the World Trade Center memorial didn’t just magically find its way to New York City while Hillary served as Senator from the Empire State. The Affordable Care Act has roots going all the way back to the Nixon era, and a significant branch of those roots was planted by the Hillarycare initiative during the first Clinton administration. The Adoption and Safe Families Act and the Foster Care Independence Act both were signed into law by Hillary’s husband with bipartisan support led in large part by the First Lady’s advocacy.

The Republicans among my friends and family will doubtless yell “Benghazi!”; “Feminazi!”; and other red herring anti-Hillary slogans when they read this. Several of them will probably drop the grande dame of slurs thrown against women of accomplishment who dare to speak their minds: “Bitch!”

I don’t care. My response to that is Tina Fey’s and Amy Pohler’s famous pronouncement:

tina-amy-bitches

Hillary said in 2008 that she “ran as a daughter who benefited from opportunities my mother never dreamed of. I ran as a mother who worries about my daughter’s future and a mother who wants to leave all children brighter tomorrows.” I’m no political candidate, but I work for those exact same reasons (for my daughter, son, stepsons, and stepdaughters).

I’m ready for Hillary. Eighteen million people were ready for her in 2008…and I believe that millions more American voters, both male and female, will be ready for her by 2016.

Raging Against the Machine

The AJC has recently reported that there is a “feud” going on in the state Senate chambers.  Jim Galloway wrote about the emailed newsletter following the adjournment of the General Assembly from Senator Bill Heath, in which Senator Heath describes Chicago style tactics happening under the Gold Dome.  Feel free to read it in its entirety.  Despite the fact that I am a HUGE fan of Mr. Galloway’s work, I will respectfully disagree that this is a feud, yet congratulate the AJC on the sensational headline choice.

Like Mr. Galloway, I watched as the Senator rose in opposition both to Floor Leader Miller and the Lt. Governor, yet my recollection of the evening’s events were a bit less sensational.  It should be said, I’m a big fan of Senator Heath, Floor Leader Miller AND our Lt. Governor.  Each gentleman is easy to like, the Lt. Governor and Floor Leader have self-depreciating senses of humor, and none of them are camera hogs- sort of a rarity in the Senate.  I got to know Senator Heath a bit when I served as a Senate Aide in 2010.  He has a quiet, stern, yet warm way about him.  He’s as straight as an arrow, and he is not a rabble rouser.  His policy stances and mine could probably not be farther apart, yet I respect the man immensely and it was for all of these reasons his raging against the Senate political machine that evening was eye opening.

Continue reading “Raging Against the Machine”