Cross posted at Daily Kos
*if you have a moment and would like to help Middle Monkey today, I would appreciate you picking up the phone just once today and making this call at the bottom of this blog.
John F. Kennedy, a self-described liberal, defined a liberal as follows:
“ …someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people — their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties — someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a ‘Liberal’, then I’m proud to say I’m a ‘Liberal’.”
I cried last night. A deep, long cry of relief. I recognize that it’s something most people can’t possibly understand. I get that. You would have to walk a mile in these moccasins I think, but today, I just don’t care. This bill, this elation we all get to experience on our side of the fence, this was just for me.
I have never really fit in. I had to cultivate my own group of friends, I had to gradually avoid conversations with family members, and I had to stuff down opinions. When you grow up in a conservative family, have to hear racist comments from people you grew up loving, it is a hard and difficult water to navigate. Most of my friends have always been either of color or GLBT so I stuck out like a sore thumb. I was the freak magnet. My life in politics did not begin in a grand, decisive act. Through many tiny shifts, I came into my belief like a caterpillar that spent far too long in a cold, dark cocoon. It was great to feel the sun on my wings as I tentatively stretched them and after a couple of tiny flutters, I flew head first, no concern for what it might do to me, how it might feel. This was something I had to do for the children I would bring into this world. This was something I had to do for the children that were already here. I felt a new sense of responsibility.
When I was around 16, growing up in what was then West Germany, I remember receiving an invitation from some mysterious lottery that came to town. I was chosen to go see the President. Initially, I had no understanding of what this meant, what this was going to mean to me, only terribly excited that I got to miss school. One morning, very early, we were herded on a bus. It occurred to me briefly that there were no children on this bus whose parents were not high ranking officials or Officers, save one that was the Sergeant Major’s daughter. I didn’t understand about elitism. Back then I didn’t care. We drove for what seemed like forever, to a location in the hills, then walking uphill for a while. We navigated through check points and metal detectors. I saw my first sniper team, stationed above. That was cool. Still, we hadn’t been introduced to the President. I thought that was weird since they picked us, driven these American kids so far, but surely there was time for that later. Once we got all the way through, I saw the stages, the mass of German teens and the excitement that was building across the crowd. We were given American flags to wave and directed to what I thought would be front row, center stage…only it was middle of the crowd, center stage, right in the camera line. Weird. The Reagans and the Kohls hit the stage; everyone roars and claps, President sitting with the Chancellors wife and vice versa. Nancy is laughing like Helmut said something really funny OR he is hitting on her. I found this exchange fascinating. They finish. They leave. No one seemed to care when I asked why we were the only Americans in the crowd and not meeting the President. It didn’t matter because remember, we got to miss school for this so it is most awesome.
Welcome to the politics of the orchestrated photo op.
Years later, living outside DC and upon the occasion of the Inaugural parade for George Bush, a friend asked me to accompany her into town to witness the spectacle. We stopped at the beginning of the parade route and I seized the opportunity to stand with the protesters from NOW. With their large round signs and girl power, I finally exhaled.
Welcome to the first political emotion I ever articulated.
The next Presidential election for which I was both old enough and registered to vote for came a few years later and officially landed me square on the side I will remain the rest of my days. Pregnant with my first born, the realization of what I was doing hit me hard. It was life altering. How could I possibly bring a child into a world that existed in the manner it did? What was I thinking? I picked up a copy of Time that year, the one that lays out the numerous contenders each election cycle. I read for days. I researched. I took very seriously my first opportunity to vote. Hands down, I only had one option from the beginning. Governor Clinton.
That as they say, was all she wrote.
After that election, I went on to volunteer and serve as Precinct Secretary and County Delegate, in 1996, Precinct Secretary, County Delegate and State Delegate in 1998, served as Bell County Coordinator, Richard Raymond campaign for Texas Land Commissioner, 1998, became a Public Speaker on Activism for political groups, college classes, grassroots training events since 1998, and managed to graduate with a B.S in Government in 1999. In 2004 I because Precinct Chair in Tarrant County through 2007, served as an election judge and County Delegate, State Delegate, and National Delegate to Boston in 2004. I was blessed and fortunate enough to serve with Win Back Respect, as a BAND OF SISTERS member, 2004. (A Gen. Wes Clark endorsed group-Participated in events and interviews, including a debate reaction commercial shot in NYC, BBC Radio panel discussions and block walking in conjunction with the America Coming Together organization in New Mexico). I scored DEMOCRATIC GAIN training in Boston in 2004 (Training in all levels of political activism and campaigns to include seminars with Donna Brazile and James Carville). The highlight of my professional training was with TOUGH AND SMART National Security Training in April 2006 ( A Gen. Wes Clark endorsed group, Rep. Jane Harmon PAC affiliation Washington DC based conference that included research, speaker forums and intense media training on messaging and rapid response). I ran a congressional campaign in TX CD 6, 2006 who was a Member of the Band of Brothers group, running for office, producing an award winning website and selection for entry into Vanity Fair shoot for Veteran candidates seeking office post-deployment for initial invasion into Iraq (Along with Tammy Duckworth, Patrick Murphy and Andrew Duck, TomKat issue, 06). I put my life on hold and suffered immeasurable harm as the man I supported and worked for, also at the time my husband, turned out to be capable of the greatest dishonesty and web after web of lies that still have yet to completely unfurl. I stayed; I stood by and issued press releases as the voice of the campaign to focus and move forward. I stood for one reason: loyalty to my Party. If by some stroke of fate he were to one, his one vote for my side could tip the balance. Maybe that seems strange to you, but last night, four votes made the difference.
My life moved on since then. I lost people in my life that said they were my friends. I solidified friendships since that time. My work takes on different forms but still, I work. I write the letters and make the calls that other people don’t have time to add into their lives. I help feed hungry, homeless people and donate all my extra clothes, blankets and coats to a local charity. I gather canned food for the food bank, I add the extra dollar at the checkout for whatever cause is being advocated that day. I do it because someone has to. I do it so things get done even if you want to sit at home, eating bon bons and watching soap operas every day. It is America. We both get to have it our way.
Yesterday, just before the vote, I received a call from Middle Monkey, navigating her way through the political arena in D.C. this week. Sixteen and full of optimism, she talks so fast I miss half of what she has to say. She is with a group of kids, each heading in to meet with the aides of their states representatives this morning to lobby for returning sex education to our schools. Many people don’t realize but due to policies enacted by the previous administration, there is virtually NO sex ed any longer in high school. Nationwide, teen pregnancy is on the rise. It wouldn’t seem that’s just a coincidence. She started this journey the day she brought me a form to sign agreeing to allow her in the class about “abstinence education” in her school. Middle Monkey, full of promise, looked at me and said “If abstinence education worked, there wouldn’t be four pregnant girls in my class.” I told her to do something about it. After meeting with the principle and getting nowhere a year ago, now she is in D.C., screaming into the phone, telling me about like-minded individuals and how cool it is to think something in your head and meet a group of people that decide we are going to put these things into action and do something. She is giddy with the excitement. She believes she can change the world.
Geeze. Look what her mom has done. It hard to explain a process most don’t know exists but I have sat in committee meetings, pushing the platform from the precinct to the county, to the state and voted to accept it at the national level. Seeing those beliefs in writing. Changing a shall to a may. Realizing where it says “we” or “our” right there, see that? I did that. That was me. We did that. 219-212. 30 million uninsured will get coverage. I am one of those.
Middle Monkey fights today in D.C. to have sex ed returned to schools. I hope it doesn’t take her as long as it took me to get this passed. Regardless, the torch has been passed. Watch out world, here she comes.
*if you have a moment and would like to help Middle Monkey today, I would appreciate you picking up the phone just once today and making this call below.
Sadly, U.S. teen pregnancy, teen birth, and teen sexually transmitted
infections (STI) rates are some of the highest in the developed world.
In fact, one in four young women between the ages of 15 and 19 is
infected with at least one of the most common sexually transmitted
diseases. Young people of color are disproportionately likely to contract
an STI or experience an unintended pregnancy.
The Responsible Education About Life (REAL) Act would provide
federal funding for age-appropriate, medically-accurate sexuality
education programs that provide information on contraception and
condoms in addition to stressing the value of abstinence. Programs
would also discuss healthy relationships, decision making,
assertiveness, and skills building to resist social/peer/partner pressure,
depending on grade level.
March 22 is an interfaith lobby day for the REAL Act in Washington, so
your calls will support the group of youth, young adults, and adult allies
who will be lobbying their Members of Congress in person!
Calling is Easy and It Makes a Difference!
· Call the Capitol Switchboard toll free at 888-423-5983 and ask for
your Representative or Senator. Visit http://www.house.gov/ and http://www.senate.gov/ to find
them using your zip code.
· Suggested Message: “I’m calling today to ask that the Senator or
Representative support the REAL Act (S. 611; H.R. 1551) which
would provide federal funding for comprehensive sexuality
education programs. As a religious person that cares about youth,
I think it’s shameful that the United States’ rates of teen pregnancy
and sexually transmitted infections are so high. Our youth deserve
better education, and the REAL Act would help make that happen.”
For more information, please visit http://www.uua.org/socialjustice/issues/healthfamily/comprehensivesex/seat/or
contact Rob Keithan, 202-393-2255 x15, email@example.com.
2 Comments Add yours
Your talk of the trip to see the President so closely echoes my memory of the trip. I went too. I remember they were late. I remember sitting on the hill waiting wondering how it was that WE were on time and they were late. I was a little grumpy about it. I'm a stickler for being on time even now.Then they showed up and took the stage and we all cheered and the irritation of the tardiness was gone. I was caught up. It was well orchestrated and well done. I didn't, until later, when I came down… remember that they'd been late and we'd been part of the crowd shot on the following week's edition of Newsweek for that area.
I didn't realize until many years later that it was bad form to have trucked us up there for a photo op and then not give us one of our own. Do you remember anyone saying outloud "hey, are we not meeting the President?" In my many political situations, I think often to the way we were treated that day. Whenever I am in the position now I am able to make an introduction for a young person so they can get a picture in, I always do because you just never know how it will effect them. 🙂