uneasy times

I thought that I had mentally prepared myself for DT’s presidency, thinking that Congress would step up and cooperate to create sound legislation to keep us on a reasonable track.

I was, of course, totally wrong.

As of today, the United States government is in partial shutdown for a record 27 days and counting. 800,000 federal workers are either furloughed or working without pay, including the Coast Guard, air traffic controllers, and food inspectors. There are also one million contractors who work at government facilities who are not working and who, unlike federal workers, will not get back pay when the shutdown ends. Besides the workers and their families, there are also other businesses that rely on government work/ers as their customers, and are experiencing big drops in revenue as a result of the shutdown.

One of the frustrating things is that this shutdown should not have happened in the first place. After a prior (brief) shutdown, the last Congress had agreed on spending levels for all departments for 2018-2019. Some of the appropriations bills were passed by both houses of Congress; these departments are not affected by the shutdown. The remaining bills followed the previously agreed upon funding levels, but were not voted on in time to go into effect before the shutdown began. Although the House in the new Congress has now passed the same appropriations bills that the Senate in the prior session had previously passed, Republican Majority Leader Senator Mitch McConnell will not hold new votes on these bills to re-open the government because the president doesn’t approve, citing lack of $5 billion for a wall on part of the southern border.

It is, however, Congress’s Constitutional duty to control government spending. Therefore, I think that the Senate should pass these bills so the government can re-open – and because it is their duty to fund the government. Then, the ball will be in DT’s court. He can sign the bills and everyone can get back to their jobs serving the public. He can veto the bills, which would return them to Congress for a vote to over-ride, which might be possible as the pressure builds on Republican members of Congress to restore government services. The third option is that the president refuses to sign the bills without vetoing them, which would mean that they take effect in ten days.

The government needs to be about its business of serving the people. The human toll is already mounting and will continue to mount if government is not fully open soon. Many current government workers may be forced to take other jobs to support themselves and their families, which would be crippling to the functions of the affected departments when they do re-open.

Of course, this is not happening in a vacuum. Over the past couple of weeks, in court filings, testimony, interviews, and investigative reporting, there have been ever more alarming stories about the administration’s relationship with Russia and with NATO and sad and disturbing stories from the Middle East. It seems that the White House is overwhelmed with its responsibilities and incapable of dealing effectively with either domestic or foreign affairs.

The United States government has weathered a lot of storms. I’m hoping and praying we come through this one, too.
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Join us for Just Jot It January! Today’s pingback link is here:  https://lindaghill.com/2019/01/17/jusjojan-2019-daily-prompt-jan-17th/
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Paris

Today’s Just Jot It January prompt “Paris” caught my eye.

My mind immediately went to this post, written November 14, 2015 in the aftermath of a major terrorist attack there, horrible because it was so devastating and, in retrospect, because it was not the only attack that Paris has suffered.

I remember writing it from my bed in the corner room looking toward MASS MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts, where I was staying in an apartment as part of the first ever collaboration between Tupelo Press and the Studios at MASS MoCA, bringing poets together for a week of residency at the expansive Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. I had no idea as I wrote that day that our stalwart band of poets would coalesce into the Boiler House Poets and return to MASS MoCA for residency each fall for the next three years with dates planned for 2019, as well.

In that post, I was writing about the attack’s happening so close to the international climate conference that produced the Paris Accord. Hope and unity triumphed over divisiveness and rancor. I am appalled that DT has announced that the United States will leave the accord in November of 2020 and fervently hope that the decision will be overturned by our next president.

As I said in that November 2015 post:

We are all Paris. All bloodied. All in shock. All in mourning. But also united in strength. United in resolve. United in solidarity.

We must be.

The future of humanity and the planet depend on it.

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Join us for Just Jot It January! Today’s pingback link is here:  https://lindaghill.com/2019/01/15/jusjojan-2019-daily-prompt-jan-15th/
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New Year’s Eve

Today is the last day of 2018. Both 2017 and 2018 have been challenging years for me and 2019 is likely to continue that trend.

I do retain some hope that 2019 will be a better year for the United States with more shared responsibility in Washington. Perhaps there will be some consensus building and more attention to the common good.

We can hope.

Best wishes to you all for 2019!

Holy Innocents

On December 28th, the Catholic Church commemorates the Holy Innocents, the very young children who were killed by order of King Herod in an attempt to eliminate the threat posed by the birth of Jesus.

Today in the United States, I am mourning the death of two children who fled here with a parent, seeking safety and protection, but who died while detained by Customs and Border Protection.

The government is trying to blame the parents for bringing their children here, but these people were living in desperation and danger in Guatemala. They would not have risked coming to the United States if there had been any safe option in their home country. International and domestic law, as well as human decency, call on us to protect the vulnerable; the current administration has failed miserably and, when challenged in court and among the citizenry, has said that it will fix things, but then declared a new policy that violates those same laws in a slightly different way. (And for those who are grumbling that those seeking asylum need to enter the country through legal ports of entry, both US and international law recognize the right to ask for asylum without regard to means of entry. Also, the current administration has made it nearly impossible to enter through the legal ports of entry, which further endangers the already vulnerable.)

I am also remembering the many thousands of children and teens who have been separated from their families and placed in custody. While I am grateful that some have been reunited with family, others are still in detention. All of these children and young people will have life-long scars from the trauma of separation, sometimes without even having access to someone who speaks their language. Somehow, the US government assumes that all Central and South Americans speak Spanish, but many of the current asylum speakers come from remote areas where they speak an indigenous language, not Spanish. Imagine how terrifying it is to be separated from your family in a strange place where you can’t understand anything that is said to you.

I am grateful for the many volunteers who have come forward to help the migrants, offering material and legal aid, and for the millions who give to organizations that are helping to support these people and battle in court on their behalf.

There are also many people and organizations trying to get legal solutions in place. Several years ago, the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill; although the House would likely have passed it as well, the Republican leadership would not put it up for a vote. Perhaps, with Democrats set to take over the majority in the House in January, there can be comprehensive immigration reform passed by both houses of Congress. Admittedly, it might have to pass by large margins, in case the president vetoes it, but I’m hoping that at least some reforms can be put in place.

The current situation must be resolved in a caring and positive way. I pray for strength, wisdom, and perseverance in this struggle for human dignity and decency.

 

this week in the US

I have expressed unease over the way things are going with the United States government, especially the executive branch, over these past two years.

The news of court cases and filings, some related to the Mueller investigation and some not, firings/resignations, and policy changes on both foreign and domestic matters have been particularly intense over the last few weeks.

Still, I wasn’t prepared for the torrent of news this week, especially the sudden announcement of the withdrawal from Syria and the subsequent resignation of Secretary of Defense Mattis.

And the week isn’t over yet.

It’s likely that there will be a partial government shutdown. It’s possible that, with the president being so unpredictable, some other countries might take provocative actions, thinking the US is too preoccupied to respond.

I’m really scared.

Two Poems for the Marcellus

In April 2014, I changed the original post below when I submitted my poem to an anthology. It wasn’t selected, but I never reposted with my poem included. When I ran across this copied into my drafts folder today, I figured it was time to put it back out there. It a good reminder to me that, even though there is a lot more work to do, we have made some progress since November 30, 2012.
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I had to share this link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sandra-steingraber/marcellus-shale_b_1428030.html, which leads to an essay and poem by biologist/poet, Dr. Sandra Steingraber.  She is one of the heroes in the fight to keep unconventional fossil fuel extraction, aka fracking, out of New York State and to rein in this and all toxic industrial activity everywhere. The poem is mind-blowing for me, partly because of its depth of composition and partly because I have spent a lot of time in the fight, too, although in the role of citizen advocate/commenter, not expert/lecturer/author.

This seems a good opportunity to share a poem I wrote, right after the announcement that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation was putting out final drilling regulations for comment, despite the supplemental generic environmental impact statement not being complete. The good news is that we mobilized to submit over 100,000 public comments and the DEC let the proposed regulations lapse. The SGEIS is still incomplete, pending a health review from the state health commissioner, and we still do not have high volume fracking in New York State.

Novermber 30, 2012 – After DEC Regs

Watching the silent snow,
The voices recede.
The hills are shrouded,
The innocent land
Unaware of the impending attack.
The crows circle,
Seeking carrion.
The cold creeps into our bones.
The land shivers,
Resting now from the furrowing of the plow
Under its snow blanket,
Dreaming of spring.
Will the thaw bring warmth and greening
Or drilling and destruction?

One-Liner Wednesday: RIP, President Bush

America is never wholly herself unless she is engaged in high moral principle. We as a people have such a purpose today. It is to make kinder the face of the Nation and gentler the face of the world. My friends, we have work to do.”
~~~
 President George Herbert Walker Bush (1924-2018) from his inaugural address
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