Votes for Women!

On August 18, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified, recognizing women’s right to vote. It reads: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”

It had taken many decades to pass the amendment. Generations of women who had worked toward it died before they were able to legally cast a ballot. Many black women continued to be denied voting rights until the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Shamefully, part of the Congressional enforcement of the Voting Rights Act was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013 and some states have enacted discriminatory practices. The House of Representatives has passed the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to address these issues, but Sen. Mitch McConnell has not brought it up to a vote in the Senate. A brief overview of the bill can be found here.

Because of the centennial, there have been a number of documentaries and news features about women’s suffrage in the United States, as well as articles and editorials. We have seen striking visual reminders of the struggle, such as the women in Congress wearing white for the State of the Union address, because white was the color that many suffragists wore during their marches and demonstrations. [A side note on wearing white: When I was a member of the Smith College Glee Club, we wore white when we performed. I don’t know if this tradition sprang from the suffrage movement or not. After I graduated in 1982, the Glee Club moved to wearing all black, but I admit that I still miss the striking sight of a group of young women blazing onto the stage wearing white.]

Because of the pandemic and the current civil and voting rights struggles, the commemorations of the ratification of the 19th amendment will be somewhat muted. I’m remembering, though, the 75th anniversary, which was a special event for me.

I live in upstate New York, a couple of hours drive from Seneca Falls, home of the National Women’s Hall of Fame and the Women’s Rights National Historical Park. Twenty-five years ago, I was a member of a mostly female, mostly Catholic group called Sarah’s Circle. We met for prayer and discussion on a regular basis and occasionally took part in public events. We decided to take part in the parade and other events in Seneca Falls. We marched wearing matching shirts with our logo, designed by one of our members, on the front:

The back read “Can We Talk” because, at that time, an instruction had come down from the Vatican forbidding even the discussion of women’s ordination.

This did not deter the members of Sarah’s Circle from still speaking up about women’s ordination, but we were trying to appeal to members of the hierarchy to speak with us about it. A number of the our members who felt called to ordination wore Roman collars with their shirts. At the time, I did not feel that call personally so I did not add the collar. As we marched, we sang women’s suffrage verses that one of our members had written to familiar hymn tunes.

It was an inspiring day, filled with joy, hope, and thanksgiving. We had no idea that, twenty-five years later, there would still be such a struggle for fair voting and for equal rights and opportunity. May this centennial commemoration energize us to continue to speak out and vote for those who will uphold the voting and civil rights and the dignity of every person. May we also defend vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris from sexist and racist attacks.

We’ve come a long way in one hundred years, but not nearly as far as we should have.

SoCS: on conditions in the US

I don’t know how much more of this we can take.

“We” refers here to the United States.

This past week, we surpassed 150,000 COVID deaths and the virus is out of control in a number of states, including our three most populous. California has now passed the half million mark for cases – and the real number infected is, no doubt, much higher because mild or asymptomatic cases are unlikely to be found. There is some hope on the vaccine front with some Phase III trials beginning – the one I’m signed up for will start in August, I hope – but, even if one or more are successful, it will take months and months for enough doses to be available globally to quash the pandemic. Meanwhile, here in the US, there is still no national strategy and people are suffering because of it. Even states like mine (New York) who worked hard to get out case numbers way down are under threat of resurgence from infected people visiting our state, returning home from traveling, or coming back to our many colleges and universities. It’s terrifying.

On Thursday, the nation had an opportunity to reflect on love and justice and service. Rep. John Lewis, a central figure in the civil rights movement who went on to champion the rights of all people who suffered discrimination and prejudice – and the planet itself – was honored with a truly beautiful funeral service. Reflections were offered by clergy, family, friends, staff, colleagues, and all four former presidents, Jimmy Carter in writing and Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama in person. President Obama gave the main eulogy, which was also a call to action for justice and for voting rights, a cause which John Lewis literally bled for, was jailed for, and supported passionately for decades. The House of Representatives voted unanimously to re-name a voting rights bill that they had passed earlier after John Lewis. (OK, Mitch McConnell. Time to get it to the Senate and pass it into law.) Sadly, this law is needed after the Supreme Court struck down provisions of the Voting Rights Act originally passed in the 1960s, reasoning (wrongly) that the country was past discriminatory voting practices. Since then, many states have re-implemented practices that limit ballot access for citizens based on age, race, income level, location, and other factors.

To point out the threat to voting and election integrity – yes, there is also evidence of foreign election interference, as if the domestic problems weren’t bad enough – the same day as the funeral, the president floated the idea via Twitter that our November 3rd national election should be postponed. The date of the election is set by Congressional law, though, so the president can’t change it. Fortunately, even the Republicans in Congress said that the election date will not be changed. I also think there would be civil unrest if it was tried.

Still, the election is under threat from forces within the government. Each state is responsible for running its own election, but the pandemic has made in-person voting more complicated and dangerous. States are moving to make greater use of their absentee voting systems, but these usually rely on the postal service, which the president is undermining through inadequate funding and a new crony leading the postal service who is changing policy to slow service. The House of Representatives has passed legislation to allocate funds to the states and the postal service so that our election can be fair, free, and safe, but Sen. McConnell has refused to bring the bill to the Senate for a vote. His own proposal doesn’t address election integrity at all. It also doesn’t address aid to states – and it was over two months after the House passed their bill before he even put out his proposal.

During the impeachment and trial, Republicans kept saying that “the people should decide the fate of the president at the ballot box.” They should be ensuring that we can do that safely, securely, and freely, not putting up roadblocks. If they are confident in their positions on the issues, they should be eager to have the vote. This looks like they know they have failed in their obligations to protect and defend the people and the Constitution and realize they can only hold onto power by cheating and deceiving.

As if all of that wasn’t bad enough, there is more bad news on the economic front. The GDP declined at its highest rate since such things started to be calculated over 150 years ago. (GDP=Gross Domestic Product) Because the pandemic is so bad, many businesses are needing to close or scale back, so many more people are unemployed. Some who had thought they were temporarily unemployed are now permanently unemployed because their businesses that they owned or worked for are closing for good. Because the federal government isn’t helping the states, we are also facing a wave of layoffs of state and local workers. Unlike the federal government, most states are required to have balanced budgets. Their tax revenues are way down, so their budgets are broken. This can mean layoffs for police, public hospital workers, teachers, public works employees, and other essential workers that are needed even more now. This will make unemployment worse and cause more demand for anti-poverty programs – for which there is already inadequate funding. Oh, and the additional federal funds of $600/week that were added to state unemployment checks in the CARES Act this spring end this week. The House bill that passed in mid-May would extend them until January; McConnell’s new proposal cuts them way down.

Most economists advocate the federal government injecting much more money into the economy to keep it afloat until the pandemic ends. The very real fear is that what is happening now – with the CARES Act programs ending with nothing to replace them (or next to nothing) – that the steep recession will turn into an economic depression. Evictions and foreclosures, many of which had been forestalled by prior legislation, will likely accelerate, leading to an increase is homelessness and, possibly, bankruptcy for landlords who no longer have tenants. People may have even more problems finding food. There are already strains on both public and charitable food resources. Our health care system, which was already broken, will be even more overwhelmed.

I try to be realistic.

It’s hard, though, not to think that we are going to see more and more and more suffering in the months ahead.

As a nation, we need to summon more courage, more intelligence, more compassion, more reason to chart a path to restore peace, justice, and good health. I guess “restore” is the wrong word. We need to establish those things for everyone.

And we need to have the freedom to vote.

***** Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “more.” Join us! Find out how here: https://lindaghill.com/2020/07/31/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-aug-1-2020/

2019-2020 SoCS Badge by Shelley!

One-Liner Wednesday: John Lewis

“A democracy cannot thrive where power remains unchecked and justice is reserved for a select few. Ignoring these cries and failing to respond to this movement is simply not an option — for peace cannot exist where justice is not served.”

Rep. John Lewis (1940-2020)

Please join us for Linda’s One-Liner Wednesdays! Find out how here: https://lindaghill.com/2020/07/22/one-liner-wednesday-july-22nd-the-small-things/

Badge by Laura @ riddlefromthemiddle.com

SoCS: John Lewis

When I read Linda’s prompt yesterday, I thought I would be writing about Link, a flight simulator company that B worked for early in his career, and how it went from its proud origins in the Binghamton area through various hostile takeovers, sales, downsizings, and other calamities to its current existence in our area as a shadow of its former self.

But, overnight, we got the sad news that John Lewis passed away. He was one of the last living links to the historic March on Washington for civil rights. He had been the only speaker that day who was still alive. He helped to organize the march as a young man who was the head of the Student Non-violence Organizing Committee. (My apologies if I don’t have the name completely accurate. Stream of consciousness and all that.) [Should have been Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.]

He was one of the leaders alongside Martin Luther King, Junior, in the first attempt at the the march from Selma, Alabama, to their state capital on what became known as Bloody Sunday. [Another correction. MLK was not at the first march, but joined the second march that was completed, thanks to federal protection.] As they were trying to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge, the marchers came under attack from law enforcement. John Lewis was the first person that they brought down, fracturing his skull. He bore scars from that attack for the rest of his life.

He continued the fight for civil rights for black Americans and for all Americans through the decades, including seventeen terms in the House of Representatives from the Atlanta, Georgia area. His dedication to justice, peace, and non-violent protest is widely admired and respected.

There is a hope that the Edmund Pettus Bridge, which still bears the name of a racist as it did on Bloody Sunday, will be re-named in honor and memory of John Lewis soon.

May it be so.

*****
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “link.” Join us! Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2020/07/17/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-july-18-2020/

2019-2020 SoCS Badge by Shelley!

boycott

I had already been planning on not watching DT’s inauguration. Seeing and hearing him remind me too much of all the hateful things he has said and done.

I have even more reason to boycott now as a show of solidarity with Rep. John Lewis of Atlanta, Georgia.

Rep. Lewis said in an interview last week that he questioned the legitimacy of DT’s election, due to the interference of Russia.

I agree.

DT does not and excoriated Rep. Lewis on twitter, of course, on Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend. Rep. Lewis is one of the last living stalwarts of the 1960’s civil rights movement dedicated to non-violence, who marched with Dr. King and bled at Selma, and the member of Congress widely known as its conscience. DT once again showed his pettiness and ignorance.

Also, DT showed his complete lack of the sense of irony, given that he spent five years questioning the birthplace and legitimacy of President Obama and repeatedly said during his own campaign that the US elections were rigged.

Many, many people are upset about this situation. Over thirty members of Congress are joining Rep. Lewis in boycotting the inauguration.

While I had already decided not to watch the inauguration before this happened, I am humbled to join my small, private boycott to theirs.
*****
Join us for Linda’s Just Jot It January! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2017/01/17/jusjojan-daily-prompt-jan-17th17/

jjj-2017

 

Guest viewpoint on gun control

A guest viewpoint that I wrote has appeared in the Sunday edition of the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin. It is available here: http://www.pressconnects.com/story/opinion/2016/07/29/guest-viewpoint-gun-control/87703872/.  I will also copy the text at the end of this post because there is a paywall after a certain number of free articles per month.

I did not write the headline. I am not going to read comments, which, thankfully appear on a separate page on the web. I am sure some of them will be nasty; there are even a few people from my facktivist days who make it a point not agree with me about anything, including if I write that grass is green.

Regular readers here at Top of JC’s Mind will not be surprised at the content.
*****
Congress Should Act on Gun Control

On June 15, Sen. Christopher Murphy, of Connecticut, took to the Senate floor to lead a 15-hour marathon talk on the need for the Senate to vote on gun control measures.

While some amendment votes were held the following week, none passed; currently under consideration is a bipartisan bill, authored by Sen. Susan Collins, of Maine, on preventing those on the no-fly and selectees lists from buying guns.

On June 22, the Democrats of the House of Representatives, led by Reps. Katherine Clark, of Massachusetts, and John Lewis, of Georgia, held a sit-in with the goal of bringing gun violence prevention legislation to a vote in the House. During the 25-hour sit-in, many members told stories from their districts of those affected by gun violence; some shared personal stories, as well. Many held signs with the names of those killed by guns as they gathered on the House floor.

Speaker Paul Ryan adjourned the House early for the Independence Day break rather than hold a vote.

Many polls show that the vast majority of Americans — and of American gunowners — favor legislation to keep potential terrorists, domestic abusers, those whose mental illness predisposes them to violence, and criminals from obtaining guns. Many also oppose selling military-style weapons and ammunition clips to the public. Yet, Congress has not acted.

Some say that enacting any gun control measure violates the Second Amendment, but it does not. The Second Amendment was enacted at a time when there was no standing army; it clearly labels the context by beginning with “A well-regulated militia … .” The courts recognize this.

The Supreme Court recently upheld a federal law keeping domestic abusers from owning firearms. The ban against owning fully automatic weapons has stood for decades. No one expects to have a private anti-aircraft battery or missile silo in the backyard.

None of our freedoms is absolute. The right to free speech and freedom of the press are not license to libel or slander. The free exercise of religion does not permit human sacrifice or physical assault.

When the House reconvenes, the Democrats plan to continue their efforts to pass gun control measures. I call on my representative, Richard Hanna, to speak on the floor in remembrance of the victims of gun violence in our district, especially those who died or were injured in the American Civic Association shooting. Perhaps the fact that he is retiring will give him courage to break with the Republican leadership and vote to protect the safety of the public in accord with the will of the people, acting as a final legacy to his career as a public servant.

Our most fundamental right is the right to life. No perceived right to bear arms should trump another person’s right to live.

Joanne Corey, of Vestal, is a member of the Catholic Peace Community of the Southern Tier.

Update: While on the perssconnects website there is a photo of guns accompanying my piece, in the print edition there is a photo of Paul Ryan waving the Constitution at a press conference on why the Republicans oppose voting on gun measures. I would not have chosen either of those. A photo of the House sit-in or of Rep. Lewis would have been more appropriate to the content of the piece.

Sit-in and recess

Some of my friends outside the US may be wondering what happened with the sit-in by the Democratic members of the House of Representatives, trying to force a vote on gun control legislation.

The sit-in continued for 24 hours. Overnight, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and the Republicans appeared on three separate occasions to call the House into session and hold votes on unrelated issues. The Democrats voted but still held the floor.

At the end of the third occasion, Speaker Ryan gaveled the House into recess for the Independence Day observance, which was not supposed to begin for another week.

The Democrats who were sitting in and their supporters, who followed the sit-in through social media because Congress’s cameras only run during session, some of whom gathered outside the Capitol building in support, had been asking that there be no recess until a vote on gun issues was held.

Instead, the Republicans chose to leave town early.

The Democrats vow that when the recess is over, they will renew their efforts to bring gun legislation to a vote. It’s possible another sit-in will be involved.

If the Senate votes for a bipartisan bill that grew out of Senator Murphy’s action there last week, there will be additional pressure on the House to vote, too.

Regardless of the next steps, the sit-in itself was a powerful stand on principle. The leadership of Rep. John Lewis, one of the few remaining national activists from the civil rights battles of the 1960’s, was inspiring, as was the witness of Rep. Katherine Clark of Massachusetts, who approached Rep. Lewis about taking action on this issue.

There were many powerful speeches from House members. Some spoke of shooting victims from their states or districts. Some related much more personal stories. Rep. Marcia Fudge spoke of losing her only brother to gun violence. Rep. Debbie Dingell spoke of enduring an abusive childhood, which involved being threatened with a gun. Part of her speech appears in the middle of this video, which itself summarizes the sit-in.

One particularly evocative moment was when the Democrats sang “We Shall Overcome” – familiar as an anthem of the civil rights era – while holding up signs bearing the names of victims of gun violence.

The representative from my district is a Republican who is retiring at the end of his term. When the recess is over, I would like him to speak on the floor of the House about the victims of the American Civic Association shooting, which occurred in his district, and to vote for the common sense gun laws that the vast majority of American voters support.

Perhaps the fact that he does not have to face re-election will give him the courage to work in a bipartisan way to pass legislation that our country desperately needs for our safety and security.

We can hope.

The House’s Turn

Following up on Senator Murphy’s almost 15-hour Senate marathon. There were four amendments on various aspects of gun control in the Senate on Monday, all of which failed. There is a bipartisan group of Senators trying to craft something that might pass.

Today, the House of Representatives is having an old-fashioned sit-in to force a vote in the House, vowing that they will not go on a planned break next week unless there is a vote on gun issues. Some Democratic senators have come over to support the House members.

It is great that Rep. John Lewis is leading the sit-in. A veteran of many civil rights sit-ins and protests, he is the perfect voice to lead this action.